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've sailed round the world in a homemade sailing boat so skinny that surely no fellow in his right mind would try to cross the Channel in her. Yet she took me through the Atlantics, across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, through the Southern Ocean, and ... well, quite a few thousand sea miles more.

However, on the night of the shipwreck, which I began telling about yesterday, sliding into a craft specifically designed to save life, I felt very, very unsafe.

I listened, couldn't help but listen and feel the beneath my feet, the tumult of a huge rush of water towards the bow, then after a pause, a thunder as the great tide tore back, smashing at bulkheads, crushing everything ...
Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Little and large ... The raft on a very large ship.

The yacht that a girl shipmate and I were sailing from Rio towards the Cape ran into a container, presumably a container, around midnight. The damage must have been extensive because the yacht filled with water very quickly.

The advice for emergencies like this is not to abandon ship until the deck is level with the entrance to the liferaft. That's how it was when we left the awash Baltic Wind.

Bound for Davy Jones

We paddled a few feet away, then a little distance. I've not lost a vessel before. However, she was full of water. It seemed logical that she would go to Davy Jones immediately.

She didn't. We sat in the raft looking at the desperate sight, hoping that another yacht we believed to be nearby would sail over the horizon at any moment. Only waves and clouds dominated the distance.

After a few hours, Nature demanded attention. The liferaft resembled a paddling pool, a very small paddling pool, with a canopy. How on earth, on water, were we to follow the demands of nature?

In the story I am writing of the loss of the beautiful yacht, Drifting to Hell, I tell how we managed it. However, that was later in the drama. At this present time, we expected to be rescued within hours.

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Baltic Wind still floated. Well, why not return to her? She seemed stable enough. My shipmate could follow Nature's demands with some semblance of privacy.

We returned to the ship, clambered onto the awash deck. She went to the other side, out of sight. I found a toothbrush and tube of Colgate which had defied a wash over the side.

Smashing bulkheads

I brushed my teeth and listened, couldn't help but listen and feel the beneath my feet, the tumult of a huge rush of water towards the bow, then after a pause, a thunder as the great tide tore back, smashing at bulkheads, and crushing everything in the vessel - food, clothes, shoes, sails, storage containers, bulldozing, wrecking any and all things in its path.

It was the most disturbing, deeply upsetting uproar I have ever experienced at sea. Is it possible to feel grief for an inanimate object like a superyacht? I certainly experienced it.

But, as I will tell tomorrow, we soon realised that the doomed vessel was doing its damnedest, its very best efforts, to drown us, to send us to the Deep, too.

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

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