Solo sailor with too many radio friends?


On July 8, 2013, Jeanne Socrates, aboard her 38-foot Najad sloop Nereida, became the first woman to sail nonstop around the world from North America and the oldest woman to sail solo nonstop around the world. She completed the voyage which began and ended in Victoria Harbor, British Columbia, in 259 days. During her trip Socrates found that solo sailors can become ham radio celebrities.

Ocean Navigator caught up with Socrates in Maine where she was visiting one of the ham radio operators with whom she had contact via SSB radio during her circumnavigation.

This last successful effort was Socrates’ third attempt at circumnavigation — solo and eastbound via Cape Horn. She pointed out that simple and redundant systems were key elements in her success. Nereida was equipped with wind vane steering gear that had the helm 95 percent of her time at sea. This reduced her electrical power allowing for her precious amperage to be reserved for navigation and communication electronics.

With the shaft of her 54-hp Yanmar engine sealed, Socrates depended on her Fischer Panda genset and a Surrette AGM battery bank to supply her electronics and her Spectra watermaker. By operating the genset for one hour each day she kept her 120-gallon water tank topped off nicely.

Socrates kept in touch with the world via satellite communications. She used satcom to update her blog with regular posts. But when her satellite system failed, she had a backup.

Via Winlink, a system that uses ham radio to provide an interconnection and messaging service, she was able to maintain contact via e-mail forwarding with the help of scores of ham radio operators around the world. When asked if it was a lonely voyage Socrates said, “I spent a great deal of time on the radio so I had plenty of company.” She admitted that she had so many radio friends that sometimes she was forced to cut conversations short because she had to see to the boat. “I often found myself telling them (the ham operators) that I had work to do and needed to get back on deck.”

Socrates was honored with the Ocean Cruising Club’s Special Award upon landfall, the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal, and the U.K.’s Royal Cruising Club Seamanship Medal.

With Nereida now in San Carlos, Mexico, Socrates plans to complete some much needed work on the boat and explore the Baja with family and friends.

By Ocean Navigator