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WHICH IS the most beautiful country in the world? I'd say South Africa, and its gorgeous Cape Province is every bit as stunning from the sea as on land. But it has an odd legal system, Roman-Dutch law in which fate is decided by judges and never by twelve good men and true.

I navigated many cruising yachts round the Cape of Good Hope, and regular work like that took me to the Cape often. The Southern Ocean had taught me about handling wild weather, experience I could put to good use for wise world-cruising people preferred to employ professionals to take their sailing boats round that notorious headland.

Ship's Log 07 February | indoors and dwelling on hard won knowledge.
Wind NNW 8 knots | 1020 millibars
Clear sky | Moon 18°50'N 10 days 85%

I didn’t really know much about legal systems, but like most Brit visitors I would argue against their approach to so-called justice. I found it hard to understand how South Africans imagined that having their fate decided by two wise men could be preferable to our twelve good men and true.

These informal debates, surprisingly very close to the bar, were regular occurrences in local yacht clubs.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.

Fate gave me the chance to become an authority on the jury system – at least the approach and behaviour of one jury.

A measure of relief

And when at last the trial which followed the ambush began, I really felt a measure of relief. At last the nonsense of the prosecution would be thrown out, thanks to the good people on the jury benches. I would be going home soon, I thought.

The trial became the longest in an English court, and went on and on for almost 18 months. It was held in secret for some reason I didn't understand. So for a year and a half, a fellow who had argued in its favour came to witness how juries can be. Well, hopefully not all juries, but certainly how this one reacted.

My argument now is quite the opposite. Don’t rely on a jury. Don’t be as I was, absolutely certain that they'd be on my side, that they would spot the falsehoods. I’ll tell more tomorrow, or in the next couple of days, about our jury.

And I'll let you into a little irony that came through the letterbox the other day, too, as if I was being mocked for my previous ignorance, and arguments, and for the more recent hard won experience.