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Napier, New Zealand: Snuggled up by the fire in the wee hours — yet again — a couple of months back, I came across an old email from cousin Paul. Well, technically he is my mother’s cousin — but I decided to get in touch.

by Brenda Vowden

I remembered he’d written another book and I was keen to learn more. It turns out this was his fourth book, with a fifth in the wings. And he invited me to read it and perhaps to review it.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Man and the elements ... Paul and yacht in the North Atlantic on his farewell to the sea.

I don’t think I’d ever written a book review so wasn’t too fired up about the idea.

I sent away for the book and got stuck in.

... he has spent almost a lifetime sailing solo, as both an ocean going competitive yachtsman, as a DoT Commercial Yachtmaster, and during his circumnavigation to become a singlehanded Cape Horner.

Although I did part own a yacht many, many years ago and so am not completely unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the pursuit, I would certainly not call myself a sailor at any stretch of the imagination.

However, I was prepared to give the review a go.

Enthralled

When I finished the book, needless to say, I wanted more — although I won’t be buying another yacht any time soon. Below is my review — read on.

You don’t have to be a keen sailor to be utterly captivated from the first chapter of Paul Rodgers’ latest book, Sailing to Purgatory.

The reader will be enthralled as Paul, former Fleet Street journalist turned professional yachtmaster, takes us along on his ‘swallowing the anchor’ voyage, his retirement from the sea.

This self-confessed ‘newish ancient mariner’ is all set to skipper a Farr 38 on a Caribbean voyage when the owner decides on other plans and sells the yacht to Paul. And the adventure begins.

Cape Horner

Nothing is straight forward when sailing singlehandedly across vast oceans, but Paul is no stranger to helming on long passages alone.

In fact, he has spent almost a lifetime sailing solo, as both an ocean going competitive yachtsman, as a DoT Commercial Yachtmaster, and during his circumnavigation to become a singlehanded Cape Horner.

So battling currents, storms and seas higher than a three-storey house is just about par for the course. I suspect that if Paul ever came across warning signs of dangers ahead, he would glance the other way.

‘Dangerous’ goes no way towards describing the perilous conditions endured on this final 8,000 mile voyage from the Caribbean, across the North Atlantic, and down into the Southern Ocean, and then up to St Helena Island.

Sailing to Purgatory has all the roller coaster elements of a heart stopping adventure — drama on the high seas, observing life on remote islands, tropical wildlife, undersea volcanoes, a love interest and waves high enough to scare the pants off most of us.

Ambushed

However, none of that prepared Paul for what was to happen when he finally reached terra firma. Within days of arriving at his destination and before he had the chance to let go of his sea legs, authorities ambushed him and one of the most gruelling chapters of his life had begun.

Paul was accused and later convicted of drug smuggling, although he sailed no closer to UK than 1,100 miles. It’s a crime he vehemently denied during the eight years he endured behind bars. But that’s another story.

Thanks to Brenda for the encouraging words, and thanks to you for visiting the SailingToPurgatory.com blog

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