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.

Enough of the visiting spoilt brat wallowing in questionable headlines. I’d prefer to dwell on the life of a real man, a fellow happy to serve his country in time of war, using skill and intelligence to better an enemy intent on destroying Britain.

Good Tom Neil, who died this week, didn’t devote younger years to feathering his nest, but learned to fly and so well that he became a wing commander. In the second world war, he flew at least 140 missions and survived.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Modesty ... Tom Neil, looking back on his life, regrets an imagined lack of determination. It's something we're not likely to hear from another person in the news at the moment.
In combat high over Britain, he is credited with destroying 14 enemy aircraft.

He flew Hurricanes and Spitfires which my father helped design and build.

A Battle of Britain ace

Tom was rated as a Battle of Britain ace, which speaks of his cool. He remained in the air force till 1964.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar and Air Force Cross.

A video of Tom and his memories is - here. Tom Neil lived in Thwaite St Mary, in Norfolk. He met his wife, Eileen, at Biggin Hill, where she was a Women’s Air Force officer. They were married for 70 years.

Compare the following example of his modesty with the chatter of the visiting ego. In a Radio 5 interview, he said that he regretted not performing better when he fought in those aerial battles over England.

‘I chastise myself mentally because I should have done more.’

This genuine and good fellow

He said, ‘There are times when I didn't press home the attack as well as I ought to have done. I should have gone on longer.’

Yes, better today to mourn the passing of this genuine and good fellow than to wave a placard in the face of the dullard who probably sees such things as a variation of high devotion like a form of Beatlemania.

Tom wrote many books - From the Cockpit: Spitfire (Ian Allan Publishing, 1990), Onward to Malta: Memoirs of a Hurricane Pilot in Malta, 1941 (Airlife Publications, 1992), Flight into Darkness (Air Research Publications, 2006), Questions of Guilt and Other Stories: The Stories of Wing Commander Tom Neil (Red Kite Publications, 2008), and many more.

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

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