Sailing to Purgatory
The final scene in this true adventure shocked the author, too.

‘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 … 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 ... Sailing to Purgatory has all the roller coaster elements of a heart stopping adventure — drama on the high seas, observing life ... undersea volcanoes, a love interest, and waves high enough to scare the pants off most of us.’ - Brenda Vowden, journalist, avid reader

Home from the outside ... St Helenans,
'Saints', round their South Atlantic
island in Midshipman,
en route for Stockholm.

Enterprising forebears ... The house Paul's father designed, and the car his paternal grandfather designed and built.

Running repairs ... crewman Declan checks rig fittings on the superyacht, Midshipman, which Paul sailed from the Cape to Sweden.

Sail power ... Gavin's Howe's beautiful yacht in the Mediterranean.

Rescue in the Southern Ocean ... Yachting World's international edition this month features Paul and Captain Fantastic in its Great Seamanship series.

Pat and Gerry Adamson, two wonderful supporters get Spirit of Pentax ready for her circumnavigation.

Home sweet home ... St Helena islanders, after a voyage round their island home on the superyacht, Midshipman.

Baptism of a Cape Horner ... Lady Chichester names Spirit of Pentax in a ceremony at Brighton Marina.

Homeward Bound 2 is prepared for her attempt on the longest open boat record.

Tri trials ... testing Paul's entry in the singlehanded race across the Atlantic are great friends Ron Pell, Jerry Freeman plus a keen helper.

Cover up ... Bob Abrahams works on cover ideas for Sailing to Purgatory.

Stocking up for 18 months ... Last minute farewells before Spirit of Pentax and Paul left on the long route to become Cape Horners.

Death of a racer ... Baltic Wind flounders after running into a container in the South Atlantic. Paul and a lady shipmate spent eight worrying days in a liferaft.

CONVERSATIONS I OVERHEAR in the Cape ... I'm sipping a pleasant cappucinno in a Cape Town coffee spot. Two women at the next table, young fifties, are animated and enthusiastic as they relive a story with seemingly a long shelf life.

It seems to be a cautionary tale of the dangers of hitching without taking great care, a story of incredible courage in the face of, well, utter madness.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The beach where the killings took place ... The Cape's magnificent Muizenberg beach, in False Bay. This photo of Muizenberg Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor, used on with grateful thanks.

The anecdote is played out by three characters on a hot day in Cape Town seemingly a few years previously.

It is strange to hear both women acting as story-teller, both joining in the impromptu retelling, in a way almost as if they were reading a script. ‘And such a hot day,’ the girl I’ll call Myrtle exclaimed.

Heading for the beach

Jenny said, ’So there they are heading for the beach.’

‘They decided to go to Muizenberg. I don’t know why Sea Point wasn’t ...’

‘For a change, prob, it’s a good beach. The water’s warmer in False Bay.’

‘Maybe the Cape Doctor was raging. It’s got less teeth in Muizie.’

Myrtle said, ‘Off they went. They didn’t have a car.’

They didn't need a car

‘Attractive girls don’t need a car.’

‘Probably didn’t have a licence.’

‘Would you actually need one here?’

‘Only if the cops pull you over.’

‘They’re hitching,’ Myrtle said.

‘An okie pulls over. He’s on his own.’

‘Ought to be safe then.’

‘And in they get. Then ...’

Myrtle said, ‘I don’t like this bit...’

‘He pulls over in a deserted part. He’s got a gun.’

‘Jeez. He ties their hands behind their backs.’

Doing it to her

‘He pushes one of them to a side of the bakkie. He's doing it to her.’

‘He starts choking her. Hands round her throat.’

‘The younger girl is watching. Can you imagine? What's going through her mind?’

‘She’s next. She'll be thinking she's next for it. Then she realises the gun’s in the jeans he’s dropped.’

‘Somehow, somehow, she edges over to the pants. She squats by the jeans. She feel through the material. She feels the gun. She grabs it. It's it in her hands.'

‘Imagine what it's like. Your best friend’s been raped, murdered, and the rat's got you in his sights. You're next.’

‘She’s got the gun.’

‘Yes, yes.’

‘She points it at him.‘

‘Do it. Do it, man.’

‘Fire! Fire!’

‘She pulls the trigger.’

‘She’s got him. He’s down.’

She shoots. He's down

‘And she shoots, bang, bang, bang. She’s got him. He’s down. He’s dead.’

‘There’s the girl on her own. The gun smoking. Her poor friend dead. And the swine slumping, mortally wounded. Dead. Dead. Die! Die!’

The talking stops. The story is over. For a moment they stare at each other as if staring at the victim. Then, surprisingly quickly, they are back in our world. They look at each other, and one – Jenny, I think - takes the cups to the counter for top-ups.

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for Sailing to Purgatory, the book of my last oceanic voyage, 8,000 miles to what ought to have been a happy retirement from my mistress, the sea. However, it was just about the exact opposite ...

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