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.

I mentioned yesterday a passage from Sailing to Purgatory about the Pancake Day I experienced in an enormous storm in the Southern Ocean on my very last voyage as a sailing professional.

Joan, from Edinburgh, reminds me of another reference in the book to the odd events of that weird day at the end of the last millennium. 'You were cheered up by quite an astonishing message, weren't you,' Joan wrote.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Lone voyager ... My brave little ship, eM, in happy, adventurous days before a corrupt prosecution stole her.

'Go on, share that spot of romance with us on this very romantic day.'

I had broken my 'swallowing the anchor' voyage in the Madeira archipelago.

I met up with and enjoyed the company of two quite special sailors who were involved in the big cruise to distant ports, a dream that many people passionate about the sea and sails often undertake.

I became involved

Somehow, completely unintentionally, I became involved with the lady, Sofie.

When the shared feelings couldn't be hidden, I felt I should do the decent thing and leave before, well, before more serious things might happen.

I sailed off on my own, heading down towards the Doldrums, South Atlantic, Roaring Forties, and the Southern Ocean, en route for Cape Town.

A very odd send-off ceremony was held on a jetty that morning, with the boyfriend understandably hardly able to hide his enormous relief that I was going, with Sofie in rather an opposite mood.

Brilliant amateur radio by then encouraged emailing and at Sofie's prompting, we exchanged many messages.

Towards extraordinary desolation

This excerpt from Sailing to Purgatory takes up the story, as that odd expression goes ...

Another Southern Ocean tempest follows and carries us, [the yacht and her lone sailor] reluctantly, belligerently towards Valentine’s Day. I didn’t know it then, of course, but it is a day I will never forget, but much more from the deceit of agents of establishment – from fellow humans – than from ocean aggression and the extraordinary desolation.

Ignorance is bliss, we're told, and in the cabin that evening, it was a time for celebration. I sent off a batch of emails and before long many responses and greetings arrived through the ham rig. Among them came very welcome words from Sofie.

Between the lines, I read that she will almost certainly swallow the anchor, too, and join me on terra firma. A long step for her, I thought in my elated mood, but for me just a few hundred miles. It could be said that I was no better at guessing the future than, say, Hamlet.

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

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