Confessions of a Single Senior Sailor Girl

Interviewing sailors like catamaran cruiser Jeannette Igra make our job really interesting. She has many admirable accomplishments including successful author, ironman master champion and blue water cruiser all after the age 50.

Adventures in Paradise on a Leopard 46

Not only did she start her journey from Maui but she is a single, senior female boat owner. She’s also inspiring, courageous and full of gumption… great traits for an ocean sailor.

Jeannette landed at our DBY Boat Sales Sydney, Pittwater office on ‘Pacifica’ in the winter of 2014. She shared some of her stories, advice, joys and challenges of blue water cruising the sunny Pacific.

What were your top considerations for purchasing a yacht?

What sealed the deal for me on the Leopard 46 owner’s version was the three cabin layout where the owner’s cabin offers total privacy when guests or crew are on board.

Another deciding feature was the sailing ability of the Leopard which has a wider wind range than most cats and easily makes 7-8 knots at 35 degrees to the wind where most cats only go 60 degrees.  This is particularly useful traveling long distance.

The ease of handling with all lines running to the electric winches at the helm station was also key.

Finally, I also figured out that maintenance was easy as the Leopold 46 model had been popular with the charter industry.

Why did you choose a catamaran over a monohull?

In the past I was a monohull sailor.

When I decided to take up cruising and ‘live the dream’, the choice for a catamaran was obvious. I wanted space, comfort at sea and the ability to be independent for long range cruising.

The ample space in the catamaran makes it possible for the installation of a generator, solar panels, air con, heat units, water maker, ice maker, underwater lights and more… all this adds up to comfortable living on board and self-sufficient long range cruising.

What was your cruising/sailing experience before purchasing ‘Pacifica’?

My sailing experience before purchasing the Leopard was mostly in the Bahamas although I have done some sailing in the  Caribbean and Turkey.

On the shallow Bahama Banks I learned that a deep keel was trouble. Getting in and out of anchorages had to be at high tide with the sun behind you – a scenario not always possible. Cooking was cumbersome, being strapped in and standing at a 45 degree angle.

Did you have a cruising plan and did you stick to it?

When I bought the Leopard 46 in Hawaii in 2011, I had one month’s mooring as part of the purchase deal and then I had to leave.

It was late in the season and Tahiti was the nearest port 2,300 miles away. I outfitted the boat and loaded it with cruising guides and charts of the South Pacific and hired a skipper.

The trip to Tahiti took 17 days. After a layover for the cyclone season, I spent the next season cruising the islands of French Polynesia.

From Bora Bora I set off to the Cook Islands and Samoa. The plan was to head to Tonga next but the wind was favourable for Fiji. I ended up sailing to and staying in Fiji cruising the islands for 2 years.

When the plan developed to sail to Australia and New Zealand, I wasn’t sure I was up to making the midwinter trip in the Tasman Sea and arranged for a delivery. When the skipper arrived and I could find no crew who were prepared to make the crossing, I ended up going with the boat and on July 26 we reached Coffs Harbour.

The skipper, John Batten, brought the boat across with great professionalism. He is an expert sailor, great mechanic and reads the sky like a road map. I am grateful to DBY Boat Sales for their help in arranging the delivery and their continued assistance along the passage.

In Coffs Harbor, I was impressed by the efficient and friendly service of the customs officials. One of the challenges of cruising is to navigate the many regulations that relate to inbound and outbound clearance.

It is important to be aware of the rules and plan for them. For instance some countries do not allow vegetable, meat, dairy products, fruit, nuts and beans. That pretty much means you have to arrive with empty stores or all will be confiscated.

What was your favourite port?

Ports are just your check in points. Cruisers hang about private, palm fringed bays. They are all favorites!

Did you have unexpected challenges that would relate to women?

For a woman, lack of strength is the most frequent challenge on the boat. Usually I am able to figure out a way to use tools and winches to overcome lack of muscle power.

The first time I lowered the swim platform I was unable to raise it until I devised a system of lines running to the electric winch. I have learned to hoist the dinghy with the 20 HP in a similar fashion.

But most of all, I have learned the golden rule of cruising… ask for help! The cruising community is full of experts, doctors, lawyers, engineers and people who have many years experience taking care of their own boat. Mostly they go out of their way to help.

Were the long passages and living aboard difficult since you’re so active on land?

Keeping fit on a boat is fun! Yoga on the trampoline… runs on the beach and bush walks… swim, kayak, snorkel-cleaning the bottom of the boat keep you in shape and moving.

What will you miss while you are on land for now?

Cruising takes you to places you would never otherwise reach. It allows you interaction with different cultures and it gives you a close friendship with other cruisers – not a bad dream!

What would you like other cruising women to know?

Cruising is 80% preparation, 10% management, and 10% luck.

Also be discerning with information you receive. Don’t take everything at face value. Do your research by asking experts and checking the internet… again prepare.

Contact DBY Boat Sales at or phone +61 2 9999 3311 for information on cruising catamarans or multihulls for sale overseas and in Australia.   We can help you live the dream!