Another West Coast circumnavigating attempt is about to leave the dock. Just a few minutes ago, long-time Latitude favorite Jeanne Socrates wrote: "Off and away now; no more FB until next May! Bye!" on her Facebook page. The 76-year-old Socrates is setting out to become the oldest person to sail alone, nonstop and unassisted around the world aboard her Najad 380, Nereida (she currently holds the record for oldest woman to accomplish this feat.)
Socrates told us in a phone call last week that she was in the final stages of preparation before shoving off. Socrates has added a few things to her circumnavigating arsenal, including hatch covers for storms, dive tanks so she can clean the bottom while underway, and modified rigging for better sailing in light air. Socrates hopes to return to Victoria in May 2019.
"Eleven dozen fresh, unchilled eggs were brought on Saturday from Firbank Farm, now packed in a wine box and stowed safely," Socrates wrote on her Facebook page on Monday, mentioning a "delicacy" that she enjoys while at sea; she said you just have to turn the eggs once a day to keep them from going bad. "Busy with so many jobs still, including a few small leaks dealt with and some lines replaced or re-run. Fresh food being dealt with now. Lots of clearing up to get done after all the work. Aurora unit was received tonight and will be installed in the morning in daylight — then I need to check it’s working OK with my devices — hopefully won’t take too long."
Socrates was just a few days from departing last year when she suffered a fall from a ladder in a boatyard, injuring her neck and ending last season’s attempt. Never deterred, Socrates has had her eyes on this season all year.
In an August 2017 interview with Latitude, we asked Socrates why she was pursuing records. "Well, I figured, what the hell. I thought, ‘if I’m going to do it and sail all those miles, why not go for a record? Why not get my name on the list? I figured, I’ll just do it for the challenge of it."
We will bring you updates of Socrates’ progress throughout the year.
Course changes? Over the years, yes, all of our courses have changed a bit. We’ve moved houses, sailed out of new marinas, raced in different classes, or perhaps added an SUP to our deck accessories. We thought you might want to find your Latitude 38 at a few new locations, too. So we’ve added Mike’s Paddle in Alameda to the hundreds of locations in Northern California where you can easily pick up ‘the real thing.’
Victoria Anweiler is the SUP queen, though she lives aboard her Columbia 26 right there at Ballena Isle Marina, and is a former program manager at Alameda Community Sailing Center.
As usual, October and early November feature a flock of female-friendly races. The first on our calendar is the Joan Storer Regatta, a memorial to a Tiburon YC member. Racing will take place off Paradise Cay in the North Bay. Although male skippers are allowed, at least half the humans onboard must be female.
South Beach Yacht Club invites all women sailors to participate in the seventh annual Red Bra Regatta, to be skippered and crewed by women, on Saturday, October 20. Weather permitting, two races will be run on the waters south of the Bay Bridge. After the race(s), awards will be presented in the clubhouse.
On November 4, Bay Area sailors will have two events from which to choose. Richmond YC hosts the women-only Amazing Grace Cheney Cup, so named in remembrance of an RYC member who died suddenly. Racing will be held on the North and Central Bay. RYC says, "If you don’t own a boat or have a friend with a boat, we will find you a boat." (Update: Men are now allowed onboard, but a woman must drive.)
On the same Sunday, Island YC will host the Jill & Jack + 1 coed triplehanded race on the Alameda-Oakland Estuary. The November 4 races will close out the Northern California unofficial women’s circuit. But if any NorCal women head south for the following event, we’ll count it toward Latitude 38’s ‘Queen of the Women’s Circuit’. (Send in your nominations by November 10.)
The Women on the Water/Women at the Helm Regatta (WOW/WAH) will be held on November 3-4 on Santa Monica Bay. Sailors compete for the Cheryl Rembert Memorial, the Robert S. Wilson Perpetual and the Women’s Sailing Association Perpetual trophies. WOW is for all-female crews, while WAH is for women skippers with coed crews. Courses for WOW and WAH Performance will be primarily windward/leeward but may include pursuit races. Courses for WOW/WAH Cruising will be random leg. Pacific Mariners YC will host post-race hospitality on Saturday, and Del Rey YC will host the awards on Sunday.
The leaves in New England were just starting to change as of about two weeks ago. Reds, yellows and oranges tinged the tips of Maine’s abundant trees, suggesting the profoundly beautiful, fleeting change that was to come, but that had yet to fully take its grip. In mid-September, the remnant of Hurricane Florence worked its way to the Northeast, dropping a few inches of rain in a few hours. There was no significant wind or swell associated with the deluge, it just rained and rained. I thought about all the cruisers at anchor: Surely their hatches would be tested for leaks on this day. (That morning on the news, there was a story — and this is true — about a restaurant in Maine giving lobsters marijuana before throwing them into boiling water.)
My family and I made the hour-and-a-half-ish trek from York to Bath to go to the Maine Maritime Museum, one of the few “intact” shipyards from the 1800s, and a place that exemplifies my theme for this series of change and the old meeting — or clashing awkwardly, even violently — with the new. On the road to Bath, there was forest as far as the eye could see, with the colors becoming a little more prominent as we went north. As a Californian, there’s something overwhelming about the sheer density of New England’s wooded-ness. Driving anywhere, you realize that every road and plot of land for buildings is cut forest. Every single inch of terra firma, right up to the beach, is trees, trees.
Plopped in the middle of Maine Maritime, also known as the former Percy & Small shipyard, is a skeletal structure of what you eventually realize is meant to represent a ship . . . a giant ship. It’s a to-scale representation of the Wyoming — at 450-ft long, the six masted schooner was the largest wooden ship, and largest commercial sailing vessel, ever built.
Constructed in 1909, the Wyoming was designed to carry coal (6,000 tons of it), loading up in northern Virginia or Pennsylvania, and sailing as far south as Argentina. The Wyoming ran aground and sank off Cape Cod in March 1924. All hands were lost.
I’m never sure what mindset to adopt while strolling through a museum: dutiful, respect? Stoic observation? The Wyoming was not that far in the past; she sank less than 100 years ago. Part of her history and lore seems ancient and distant, and yet it’s not that hard to imagine the people who built and sailed her. (“Our lives as brief as a butterfly’s cough,” Webb Chiles wrote.)
Just up the road from Maine Maritime is Bath Iron Works, a huge, active and well-staffed shipyard that primarily builds destroyers for the US Navy. Founded in 1884, BIW has been a subsidiary of General Dynamics since 1995. According to the Wikipedia history of the yard, “During World War II, ships built at BIW were considered by sailors and Navy officials to be of superior toughness, giving rise to the phrase ‘Bath-built is best-built.'”
Strolling through the interior of Maine Maritime, I came across a few models of “pinky schooners.” It took a moment for that name to reverberate, until remembering where I’d heard it before. During a visit to Berkeley Marine Center last May, I saw the pinky schooner Tiger on the hard, and had a quick chat with her owner, Luc McSweeney.
“These boats were workhorses 100 years ago on the East Coast,” McSweeney, a merchant marine and charter boat captain told me. Standing in front of the models in Maine, I felt the past-and-future merging thing again, but couldn’t ascribe the significance I wanted to. Things just . . . moved on. We can fuss over history, interpretation, and aggrandizing as much as we want, but time doesn’t care. Time just keeps on ticking, ticking . . . ticking (or slipping) into the future . . . according to the Steve Miller Band.
The last place we stopped was the “woodshed,” where a group of kids were gathered and presumably working on a project. A dinghy sat in one corner, its frames recently finished and waiting for planking. One of the volunteers told us that Maine Maritime receives one group of students every single week, year-round — an impressive feat for any museum, and a sure sign that the past has a future.
“I wish there was something like this when I was a kid,” I told one of the volunteers.
“So do I,” he answered.