Leading maritime economist George Michael Jones spent his life enjoying the ocean and working to improve overseas transportation, even helping build the undersea Channel Tunnel between France and England.

Jones, 85, died Feb. 14 at his San Rafael home. He was receiving hospice care after suffering a major stroke in November.

A member of the Marin Yacht Club in San Rafael for about 30 years, Jones was known as a leader in the regional maritime industry and a legend in local sailboat racing circuits.

"Virtually every weekend, he was either on his boat or crewing other boats," said Jones' son, Michael Jones of San Anselmo.

George Jones worked for 40 years as a transportation economist for shipping firms, ports and overseas governments, analyzing shipping traffic and planning infrastructure. He helped modernize a key Russian port after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Carolyn Jones, George Jones' daughter, said her father was a witty and humorous man who loved spending his free time sailing, camping and hiking the hills of Marin County. She said he valued his hobbies and leisure time.

"He would always say time is more important than money," Carolyn Jones, an Oakland resident, said. "He would go out walking every day with his dog."

George Jones was born in San Francisco on Feb. 26, 1927, and raised in Fairfax in a home built by his father. He graduated from Tamalpais High School in 1945, enlisting in the Army after graduation. He served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

After the war, he attended college at University of California at Berkeley and later earned a master's degree in economics from the University of Washington. In the 1960s he worked for the California Legislative Analyst's Office, working on budget issues, before launching his own transportation consulting business.

Carolyn Jones said her father was a patient man who dealt calmly with obstacles as they arose. An example of this took place about 20 years ago, when the Jones family was sailing in a race on San Francisco Bay. Another boat hit them, breaking their mast.

"It was complete pandemonium," Carolyn Jones said. "I thought we were going to end this way."

Once safely back at the Marin Yacht Club, George Jones had a drink with the members of the boat who'd nearly killed his family. They ended up smoothing things over and becoming friends.

"Even in the worst disasters he was patient," Carolyn Jones said.

His patient demeanor may have been a result of his obsession with Cal's Golden Bears football team, for which he held season tickets for 50 years. Carolyn Jones said few things brought her father more joy, and more consternation, than those football games.

"He was well accustomed to savoring life's little victories," Carolyn Jones said.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Barbara Jones; his children Carolyn Jones, Michael Jones and Cynthia Rogerson of Scotland; brother David Jones of Sacramento and sister Florence Nelson of Connecticut; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Contact Megan Hansen via email at mhansen@marinij.com or via Twitter at http://twitter.com/hansenmegan