About Glenn

On West Wind II at RVYC. August, 2013

Early Influences

My childhood could be described as one part unbridled adventure, and one part hard physical work. From a young age, I worked alongside my parents on our small acreage in Gordon Head, a suburb of Victoria, BC. Together we planted and harvested vegetables, tended fruit trees in the orchard, mowed lawns, cut wood and did a myriad of other jobs. When it was time to play, I escaped to my favourite place in the whole world – Arbutus Cove, a secluded, crescent-shaped beach close to our house that was the perfect playground for an energetic boy with a vivid imagination. I spent many days there exploring and conquering that landscape and imagining a world of my own, just beyond the horizon. I remember making small boats out of pieces of bark and setting them off from the shore out to sea thinking to myself, “one day I want to sail a small boat across the ocean, around the world.”

My parents were born and raised in Portsmouth, England and immigrated to Canada in the late 1940s. My dad was in the fleet air division of the navy and after the war, he became a carpenter. Two of my mom’s aunts ran public houses on the other side of the brick wall from the dockyards where the HMS Victory was located, and still lies to this day. My parents arrived in Canada with little more than an adventuresome spirit and a strong work ethic and with that built a wonderful life for themselves and their children. Our family history with sailing and the sea made an indelible impression on me and, as it turned out, shaped the course of my life.

My childhood home in Victoria was characteristically English – a small acreage at the end of a long driveway with high laurel hedges on both sides. I was ten and my brother Mark was seven when we moved there. It was a boy’s paradise. Beyond the hedge was the orchard, a half-acre kitchen garden, and a greenhouse filled with my dad’s chrysanthemums. The property sloped towards the ocean, so no matter where I was or what I was working on, I could always see the sea. The house faced south-east and the view from our kitchen window was across Haro Strait to the American San Juan Islands with the ever present glacier-capped Mount Baker in the distance. It was the perfect place to indulge my wildest dreams.

On the walls of our house hung two framed pictures of small boats in rough seas. One was of Sir Francis Chichester’s Gipsy Moth rounding Cape Horn under storm conditions, the other was of Sir Alec Rose aboard Lively Lady under shortened sail in the Roaring Forties.

Gipsy Moth at the Horn

In a small bookcase were a few well worn books which my father read to me many times over the years. Books by Chichester, Sir Alec Rose, Miles Smeeton and John Guzzwell. I was completely captivated by those stories and have since read many more like them about brave men who set out in small boats with big dreams.

Boats are a big part of my story

Sailing has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I loved everything about boats and being on the ocean. I started out as crew on local race boats at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and bought my first keel boat in 1978 at the age of 28. It was a familiar and comfortable environment and one where everything came naturally to me. When I skippered my own boats, I brought friends along to crew during Swiftsure and West Coast races. Eventually I went further offshore, doing my first solo passage in 1997 from Victoria to The Marquesas in 42 days aboard our 26′ Haida Sannu II and was later joined by my wife MaryLou and our two daughters Claire and Nicola.

Summary of sailing experience

  • 1978 -1979   Cal 28′ Doxy II (C William Lapworth design)
  • 1979 – 1986  Northney 34′ Sannu Sannu (Holman and Pye design)
  • 1994 – 1997  Haida 26′ Sannu II (Ray Richards design)
  • 2001 – 2007 Cheoy Lee 40′ Kim Chow (Phil Rhodes design) 
  • 2010 – present Comanche 42′ West Wind II (Sparkman & Stephens design)
Skippered Sannu Sannu in 6 Swiftsure Lightship Classic International Yacht Races – a 160 mile race in the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. Won Division E –1984.
1980s – Skippered Sannu Sannu in 3 Royal Naval Sailing Association sanctioned West Coast Races – a 675 mile race from Victoria, BC to Triangle Island – 30 miles off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island and returning to Victoria. Placed 3rd in the double-handed category with my wife Marylou in 1983.
1986 – Qualified for the double-handed Observer/Europe 1 Trans Atlantic Race (OSTAR) organized by the Royal Western Yacht Club of England.
Sailing 26' Haida Sannu II to Bora Bora, 1997
1997 – Sailed 26’ Haida Sannu II single-handed from Victoria, BC to the Marquesas Islands – 5000 nautical miles in 42 days (May 11 – June 21) Sailed across the South Pacific with my wife MaryLou and daughters Claire and Nicola to French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga. Single handed the 18-day leg from Tonga to New Zealand through Cyclone Luci.
September 23, 2007 – April 24, 2008. First attempt at a solo, non-stop west about circumnavigation from Victoria, B.C. on Kim Chow. 
Sept 2, 2014 – Dec 26, 2014   Second attempt at solo non-stop west about circumnavigation from Victoria, B.C. on West Wind II.
Glenn Wakefield on Kim Chow RVYC, 2007
Crew Positions
  • 1970 – Crewed aboard 100’ ketch Blue Leopard in the Mediterranean Sea.

Glenn Wakefield on Blue Leopard

  • 1973 – 1980 – Numerous RVYC races and long distance races aboard Sannu Sannu in and around the Pacific Northwest.
  • 1975 – Crewed aboard 50’ ketch Pandora from Victoria, BC to Maui.
  • 2000 – Crewed aboard 52’ Alden Escapade from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda.


  1. John Stephens says

    Dear MaryLou,

    I’m so sorry to hear about Glenn. I was on of the hams, ZL2DD, that helped Glenn when passing New Zealand on his previous trip. I had Claire over to the house, in Tauranga, to make contact with her dad on the radio. I still have pictures, audio files and videos of Claire speaking with her dad. You were on a Skype call with us, too, and you got to watch the whole thing. Remember?

    Is Claire still in New Zealand?

    I’ll be there in spirit when you celebrate Glenn’s life this month.

    Deepest respect,
    John ZL2DD

    • Thanks John. I remember every moment for sure. How extraordinary it was that modern technology allowed you and Claire in NZ, me in Canada and Glenn in the middle of the ocean to get connected over the ham radio and to be able to watch it all on Skype. It was slightly surreal. You played no small part in his enjoyment of that wild adventure. Thanks for your kind note. All the best, MaryLou.

  2. John Williams says

    Amazing, and tremendously inspiring. Can’t wait to meet you and your family. My wife, who isn’t a sailor and I live above Gerrans Bay in Pender Harbour from where I sail and kayak as much as possible. If you get over this way, please call us, the barbecue is ready to go. Our # is 604-883-3659.
    John Williams

    • MaryLou Wakefield says

      Thanks John. We may be up your way this summer en route to Desolation Sound on our ‘anniversary cruise’.

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