A PENSIONER with no sailing qualifications is currently navigating the waterways of the United States on a boat called ‘The Spirit of Whitby II’.
Jean Orr, (69), originally from Whitby, is currently part way through an expedition with husband Brian on the American Great Loop.
So far they have come across alligators, the Mississipi river and barges bigger than the QE2.
The couple started out in 2008 in Annapolis on their single engined Camano boat based on a trawler design and saled to Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Canada and St Petersburg.
They do four month stints on the water at a time and then take a break back home in the UK and hope to be coming back to Whitby over Christmas and the New Year.
So far this year that have gone from the Gulf Coast across Lake Okeechobee in mid Florida, over the Georgia state line, canals in Canada and Chicago and through the states of Tennessee and Mississipi to the Gulf of Mexico and back to St Petersburg.
It is a trip of over 6,000 miles which isn’t bad for someone who took up dinghy sailing at the age of 60 while on holiday in Greece.
The couple who now live in Berkshire chose to take on the Great Loop concept because there is 11,000 miles of little known waterways that enable extensive cruising without the need for dangerous ocean passages.
Jean’s family is still very much Whitby based.
The grandmother of seven was born at Beachcrest in Upgang Lane.
Her mother Avis Hearton (89) still lives at Farm Close, Whitby.
Jean’s grandfather was William Clarkson a noted Whitby coble builder whose premises were at what is now the marina.
In 1967 Jean married Brian who is retired from the RAF and it was during their early married life when their three children were young that she got her first taste of sailing.