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More Grit!

by John Curnow, Global Editor, 4 May 2021 19:00 UTC

Sounds like the title to a new Western movie. Perhaps even the sequel to True Grit. Alas, it is not. It is a reference to our good friend, inspirational sailor, and champion human being, Jeanne Socrates. Never say die was one editorial about her last lap, and we spoke with her again before she arrived back home to British Columbia.

Unequivocally known for her brilliant resilience, and capacity to take on any challenge, it was wonderful to speak with her about trading S/V Nereida for a campervan, travelling, and also the future with so much uncertainty still around. Communication this time was far easier than previously, as we were not reliant on Sat Phone, because Jeanne's in Australia, and has been for a while. At any rate, let's get straight into it.

Q: Was it harder doing your last lap as the oldest person to complete a solo, unassisted circumnavigation, or has dealing with Covid been worse?

A: "Oh I think probably the sailing. The problems I was having this time two years ago South of Oz was really, really getting to the point where I was thinking I was going to have to give up and continue to Melbourne, because I had so many things going wrong. My instrumentation was down, I'd lost my wind steering, my autopilot wasn't working, and I was in a big, big storm. You know, I had eight metre waves and 50 knot gusts, so things were getting a little bit hairy."

Q: And of course you still hadn't repaired the mainsail by that stage either, not that you would have needed it in the kind of conditions you were in.

A: "That's right. The mainsail repair had to happen just when I was becalmed basically. The wind can die down but it does take the seas time to die down and it's very difficult standing up on deck trying to sew a very difficult mainsail repair. So that didn't happen actually until I was round New Zealand and then I finally got my mainsail back up."

Q: I mean it's kind of hilarious, but sort of in a nice way now, not so much at the time, that you got marooned here in Australia. You're currently up in Cairns but you've seen a lot of Australia over the time. One positive out of that was that at least you weren't marooned, or stuck, in Canada for winter or worse, completely locked up in the UK. How was it that you got to be here in Australia?

A: "Well as you say, we're talking on ANZAC Day, just like we did two years ago. My father was an RAAF pilot and he crashed when I was five weeks old in England whilst retraining to pilot Halifaxes, having piloted Wellingtons, in which he'd completed 24 sorties over Germany. So that was really what brought me here, because I'd only just discovered that part of my family.

"I'd not really researched the family until I had my major accident a couple of years back. Having found out about the family, I got in contact with them, and have now met up with several of them, which was great. They were very welcoming. I was determined that once I finished my circumnavigation the next thing on my list was definitely to get to Oz, come and see the family, meet up with them, look around Oz, see where my father had grown up in the Riverina, and also meet up with a load of the radio friends that I'd made during the voyage.

"So the one reason became three really good reasons for getting here, which I did February a year ago and well, by March 27th I was rushing over the Western Australia border to get to meet up with friends south of Perth, so that I could then lockdown with them, as all of that happened so unexpectedly. I thought I was flying out in June back to the boat to repair it, and of course that hasn't happened. It's been a little bit difficult."

Q: And, obviously too, for people who may not know that much about you, you'd be classed as the Queen of Determination, or the queen of can-do attitude, I think I referred to you in a previous editorial. You've used the time here in Australia to really good use. You've modernised your website and updated it with some additional material. What else have you been up to, apart from seeing all of your clan members?

A: "As you say, I've had a good project because so many people have been saying to me, you know, where's your book, you know I want you to sign it for me. I'm saying well, in order for me to sign the book I've got to write it first.

"I'd been trying to get to this project while I've been going around Oz, but obviously while you're travelling - I was in a campervan for four months trying to circumnavigate Oz in a 'land yacht', which was brilliant, absolutely brilliant - it is not a base where you can spread things out and get on with jobs like that.

"I'm just in awe of how wonderful Oz is. So many wonderful and varied types of scenery, along with the lovely people that I was meeting up with. A lot of my radio friends said I had to go and stay with them and they put me in touch with other ones, which was great because when you're in a campervan sometimes it's a bit difficult to find somewhere to stop.

"So that was wonderful and in WA I met up with people that had become radio friends basically. One of them in WA helped me out a lot when I lost my Iridium connection. We spent lots of time on the radio fixing that, so that's who I was staying with, thinking I'd be one or two weeks, and of course lockdown turned it into three months. I got there beginning of April and stayed until the end of June.

"When you're travelling you can't write much. It's a bit like sailing, you really can't do anything like that, as you're too busy with navigating, seeing where you are, planning your next phase, and so on. It really wasn't until I got over to Cairns at the end of August last year, where I was meeting up with a cousin that I knew here, that I was able to settle down, because it was then that I realised I wasn't going to get out away for what then seemed like a few months.

"That first few months have stretched out to I think a year or more now. Having a book to write, a project to concentrate on has been a good thing. Mind you, it has caused another problem. Just before our call now I was going through a bit of an exercise routine on YouTube, which is wonderful with the lockdowns.

"I had suddenly realised that sitting at the computer every day for weeks on end, months on end, is really just bad for the body, so I've been getting some regular exercising in. I was putting on weight, and my knee was giving me a problem, but with the exercising the weight's gone down and the knee problem has disappeared, so I'm having to make sure I try and put that into my schedule."

Q: Just on that Jeanne, firstly, people may not know that you're quite petite, but also, how is the body after the horrific fall in the yard which delayed you taking off by, I think, was almost a year?

A: "I broke my neck and stove in my rib cage, and I am noticing that I can't turn my head as much as I used to, but it's good enough. However, I am noticing my right rib cage is just letting me know that I did something to it, put it that way. It's not really a problem, but I'm really finding that I need to twist around quite often, particularly if I'm sitting still for too long a time. So it's had minor effects. Basically it's not causing me a major problem, which is good."

Q: Soon you're going to catch up with Bill Hatfield, who of course who did a Westabout circumnavigation.

A: "We'll get together in June and have a chat down in South East Queensland. It will be nice to meet up with him. I thought he was so kind when he did not go South of Tassie nor South of New Zealand on his lap, for it meant I kept the oldest person around non-stop, and unassisted via the Five Great Capes title. I thought it was really kind of him (laughing!)."

Q: We've always known that you're a woman with a mission. What's next?

A: "Well the big problem of course is my boat up in Canada, because not being able to get back to her meant most of the things that I needed to do to fix the problems are still there. So many items to refit, mend, replace, and fix. I did a little bit before I came to Oz last year, but mostly I was expecting to be able to do that in the summer back up in Canada from June onwards last year.

"For a long time the Victoria Harbour people were very, very kind, and gave me free moorage, then it went to a Winter rate, and now they've just sent me an email saying, 'Is it your intention to leave Nereida on the Causeway Dock over the summer?' to which I replied: 'I have no choice!'

"So I have to get onto getting her ready again. It's difficult, but I'm lucky that I've got friends up in Victoria B.C. who are keeping an eye on her. Loads of little and moderate jobs - I've organised new leather for the wheel, new hinges, and new locks and knobs, because everything after 10 or 11 years on a boat suffers, especially as I done so many ocean crossings. Everything's going rusty or is corroded, so a lot of things need replacing; a lot of things need doing. A big job."

There's also a BBC podcast where Jeanne is interviewed to listen to as well.

Me hearties

Ever since we had contact with Christian Skouw for his Yamaha 9, we have been just delighted with him as a person, a sailor, and contributor. What a guy! His history and tales are just filled with the wonder that sets a person to sea for life, which is exactly what happened to him. At any rate, herewith is his next snippet of a life at, for, and with the sea.

"As I watched the America Cup boats flying through the water, literally, I started feeling as old as the boats I have sailed on. So here's another story from my past, and of course it's another 'Yo ho ho' type vessel, and in spite of all that rum, parts of my memory still work, I think?

"In 1988 I was asked to be the project manager/Captain of the Hawaiian Chieftain, a not-yet-launched steel hull 19th Century sailing cargo ship that was lying in a welding shop in Lahaina, Maui.

"OK. Where's the rum? So after the launching and all the glad-handing was done, it was time to sail over to Honolulu to start finishing off the interior, running rigging, bend on a new set of sails etc. And of course I had to find ten tons of lead for the ballast, in Honolulu!!??

"The only sail I had up on the trip to Honolulu was a staysail and two six-cylinder Volvos. Without any ballast I was a bit nervous, but we made it. The underbody looked like a trimaran; three keels, with a propeller in the port and starboard keels, and ballast in the middle one.

"After I finished up most of the running rigging I then drove it over in front of the Aloha Tower to take a selfie:) It was a dream to manoeuvre with those large engines being so far apart, I could spin it around within its own boat length. After some sailing around the Hawaiian Islands my job was done. She has now been retired from duty and I believe is somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. And she still has in her those 500+ Toyota/Nissan/Chevy/Ford batteries I had to melt down for her ballast....!"

Cat time

Now Tunisia may not be what you'd call a sailing Mecca, but they sure do seem to know a lot about getting on with the job. Aventura are manufactured by French company STGi in Menzel Bourguiba, and they clocked over twenty years in the game just last year. They are not boutique in size, just small, and they produce only a few models, working with Lasta Design.

In the case of the newest, the 37, Lasta have created something that is progressive and interesting, even pleasing, which is not at all easy in such a small cat. It also seems like they have really chased down a pretty unique offering, packed with a lot on board, including four cabins, if you so choose. Ample storage, and large refrigeration units could also mean this becomes the first choice for buyers of pocket cats looking to go solo or as a couple, and not have a massive vessel to handle or maintain! Aventura focus on obtaining sailing performance as well, and 94m2 of upwind sail plan is a good place to start.

At any rate it, it is all very interesting, and I cannot wait to see one. Rohan Veal from 38 South Boat Sales commented, "When Aventura Catamarans released the drawings of the new A37 sailing catamaran, we knew straight away it would be great seller, so we ordered hull #5 for stock straight away. As expected, it wasn't long before we sold it. This brand new model should be ready at the factory in early 2022, and then delivered to Brisbane, where after it will be on display at the 2022 Sanctuary Cove Boat Show."

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please use the search window at the top of the website if you are after something specific, as only the latest news appears on the home page as you scroll down. We enjoy bringing you the best stories from all over the globe.

If you want to see what is happening in the other hemisphere, go to the top of the SailWorldCruising home page and the drag down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

Finally, stay safe, and ready for all that 2021 will offer,

John Curnow
Global Editor,

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