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.

Shaken and stirred was certainly my most memorable Pancake Day, but the activity involved not just any unlikely attempt to cook, but the galley and the whole yacht herself, as the 38-footer was thrown about in one of the fiercest Southern Ocean storms I endured in many professional years afloat.

I was heading northwards for Cape Town. That gorgeous yacht took a mighty battering, even while she was hove to. Of course there was no chance to cook on that Pancake Day, but by jamming myself into a corner, I was able to perform a sort of magic that seemed so astounding back then.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
A stormy Pancake Day ... Recalling a scary 13th February that 'authority' chose to deny ever happened. Many thanks to Rhyl Lifeboat and the RNLI for the poster pic.

I sent emails to friends in both hemispheres and by the morning received replies from many of them.

I was able to use amateur radio to effect the astonishing magic. What a dream time it seemed back then. Me in the Southern Ocean, so enormously far from other humans, writing and sending off emails while all Hell erupted around my little ship.

While the elements battled ...

Readers of Sailing to Purgatory probably remember the episode well.

And while the elements battled outside, I was able to be in touch with the world among the swilling water and the yacht's gymnastics. Emailing via Ham radio probably changed singlehanded yachting forever.

That appalling spell of weather was to be recalled in court about a year later after I had been ambushed and detained on a trumped up charge of smuggling. You've got to be a very clever sailor to smuggle goods ashore when you are no closer than 1,100 miles.

The prosecution - the crooked prosecution - actually brought a weather 'expert' to court to show that there was no bad weather on Pancake Day and Valentine's Day in that segment of the Southern Ocean.

The rage of the ocean

I thought I could easily dispute that, for I had taken a photograph of the rage of the ocean, as I tell in Chapter 43 of Sailing to Purgatory...

I’d like to write down some observations about the wildness and the violence, but there’s nowhere to rest the notebook, and the current notebook itself is in no better state. But what about the camera? If I shoot quickly, it ought to survive the wet. I pull it from its waterproof box, focus the scene out through the portlights.

A huge wave is heaving under Sal. The Pentax MX reveals a vast slope descending far below the yacht. I could be peering down a mountainside, a long, long slope that descends a worrying distance.

If Sal were tilted outwards, it seems, we must tumble, keel over mast, cartwheeling. Click.

However, after the search and snatchings of possessions by Customs, I was never to see that photograph again, and nor the film in the camera, and nor the camera.

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.

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