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.

STRANGE HOW COINCIDENCES come along in life. I was musing on a really stunning moment from a voyage, an occasion that features in Sailing to Purgatory. I don't want to detract from the pleasure I hope many readers will share when they read of that astonishing find in the most extraordinary circumstances.

I was sailing an open boat that Gerfried Nebe had built for a Guinness Book of Records attempt on the longest open boat passage by the smallest open boat. Paddy Nebe packed lots of goodies to go with me, although I needed the little boat to be as light as possible. I took only the utter basics that ought to keep me alive for up to about two months.

The route was from Cape Town to Brighton Marina. Why Brighton Marina? Spirit of Pentax had been virtually rebuilt there for my circumnavigation attempt. The marina people were enormously helpful and did a lot to help the dream become reality.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Coincidence .... Paddy Nebe was emailing me, looked up, and saw this story looking back.

I thought it might be a nice thank you to include that modern and important part of Brighton in my dream. Which, like so many ocean-going adventures, was rather more of a nightmare.

Thrown into the air

Unfortunately, the project was delayed and I left Cape Town a couple of weeks later than was wise if I wanted to avoid the notorious seasonal Northerly gales.

Ship's Log 13 February 2017 2100:
Anchorage 'At the computer'
51° N x 0° 30' W | Wind E 11 knots
Barometer 1022 millibars steady
Moon 1°57’ N day 16 | Venus 1° 14N

The northerlies began about eleven days into the voyage, just as the Admiralty Pilot warned. The little eighteen-footer was no match for the huge waves accompanying the infamous storms.

Homeward Bound 2 was all but thrown into the air. She turned over. Her rigging was destroyed. The waterproof compartment lids were torn off. I was trapped underneath.

I tell about that in Sailing to Purgatory, so I won't be boring here, or try not to be. I managed to get the open boat going again, but she seldom managed more than a knot or two. Almost everything had been shaken out, except very fortunately my sextant and a plastic drum that Paddy had packed. It contained something utterly perfect to save one's sanity, or soul, or probably both.

The most astonishing find

I knew the approximate coordinates of St Helena Island. The little boat and I dawdled towards it. Or we seemed to. I had to believe we were progressing. I opened Paddy's drum one night, and the most astonishing find was within.

The coincidence today is that I received an email from the good lady herself. 'Heard about Sailing to Purgatory. Congrats, Captain Fantastic!'

A minute or two later, another email arrived. 'I was writing that email, looked up, and what did I see in Yacht Gabriel's bookcase? None other than ...' And there was the photo which is copied into this blog.

Thanks to you and to Paddy for visiting Sailing to Purgatory blog

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