It's a real challenge to review an ocean adventure story like Sailing to Purgatory and to sum it up in very much less than the book's own 75,000 words, as we have seen on these pages.
The latest to take on the challenge is that excellent West Indies sailing magazine, Caribbean Compass, which is based in the very spot that drugs lawmen portray as a major market place for the forbidden stuff.
|Life is sweet ... 'This should be the happy ending of an old sea dog's memoir.' - Blossom Brown|
In reality, of course, the Caribbean is anything but. It's where serious sailors go to indulge in the adult drug of grown-up trade winds sailing and seemingly endless sun.
|As a former Fleet Street journalist and a published novelist, Rodgers writes well.|
The only danger lurking there, as we've just seen, is the hurricane season, which can be really vicious, as it was this September. Oh, and trigger-happy law men.
Because of its location, presumably Caribbean Compass has to show that it not going to take sides about drug matters in that area where - if the demented badge-wearers of Tricky Dickie's crazy laws are to be believed - smugglers congregate and load up.
People have only to read about my treatment at the hands of those badged thugs of St Lucia to know that smuggling there is only for suicidal sailors. As I report in Sailing to Purgatory, I really thought those very unpleasant bureaucrats meant to do me some real harm.
And so the reviewer, with what's presumably a nom-de-plume of Blossom Brown, soon lets us know the magazine isn't going to support my assertions of a false prosecution. Fair enough. It's what they make of the story that will help aspiring readers.
Blossom writes, 'Many sailors who have completed a Caribbean cruise or a bluewater voyage have written some sort of memoir about it ... This one’s entirely different — it’s an account of Paul Rodgers’ last ocean voyage, and he ends up in prison.
|'His new girlfriend comes to live with him and life is sweet. This should be the happy ending of an old sea dog's memoir. But, like the sudden course changes on his voyage, the author’s life takes a sharp turn.|
'A British sailor, Rodgers is a serious voyager. He’s a single-handed circumnavigator, and among other exploits he participated in the 1982 BOC Challenge, a grueling solo around-the-world race in which the famous Gipsy Moth V was wrecked and Tony Lush’s Lady Pepperell sank.
'Rodgers retired at the end of the first leg, in Cape Town, South Africa, after his Spirit of Pentax was damaged by being knocked down and then swept upside down for some hundred yards by a wave.
'Not to mention that he once spent time in a liferaft after a boat he was delivering hit a container.
'Many sailors’ memoirs are uninteresting, however, regardless of their bodacious adventures on the high seas. They might have interesting experiences, but they’re not good writers. As a former Fleet Street journalist and a published novelist, Rodgers writes well.'
|September song ... Compass magazine shows some of the hurricane damage last month.|
Outlining part of the voyage, Blossom writes '... news of the development of a tropical revolving storm causes Sal’s crew to seek shelter in Rodney Bay, St Lucia. Immediately on arrival, Sal is approached by a Customs boat, thoroughly searched, and detained while a jug of diesel is taken away for analysis.
'Rodgers is ordered to take the boat to the dock for another search, which, like the first, yields nothing illegal. The diesel was found to have no contaminants.'
After that spot of Caribbean hospitality, and as soon as allowed, I set off for the Azores. Blossom continues, '... and (after a brief, unsuccessful attempt to sail to England, thwarted by more mainsail troubles) Rodgers decides he’ll ultimately “swallow the anchor in a favorite part of the world”, Cape Town. Along the way to his intended final port, he tells us of a romance with a younger woman on another boat ...
'His new girlfriend comes to live with him in Cape Town, and life is sweet. This should be the happy ending of an old sea dog‘s memoir. But ... the author’s life takes a sharp turn.
A long prison term
'While visiting friends in England, Rodgers is arrested and charged with smuggling “vast amounts” of drugs into the UK.
'Despite the fact that Sal never got nearer than 1,100 miles to England on this voyage; that Sal, unlike other smuggling vessels involved in the case, was never modified with hidden compartments; and that when Sal was searched twice in St Lucia no drugs were found, Rodgers was sentenced to a long prison term.
'An epilogue details key points in the trial, highlighting how instances of prudent seamanship, or even the whims of a “nearly ancient mariner” on his final cruise, were deemed suspicious activity by the prosecution.
'At the end of the book, Rodgers writes, “… if there is guilt, you would have found it here. I’ve related all, even the personal nagging over aging, and loneliness in society … If you found clues about smuggling, you would be ahead of the state”.'
And that's it. As I've said on these blog pages before, Compass is an excellent sailing magazine and I am grateful for the review. However, whether Blossom likes to accept it wholly or not, I did not carry a forbidden cargo to Britain, nor anywhere.
Thanks for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.