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.

That ghastly bike accident returned to the present tense today as I was obliged to cast my shadow on the extensive grounds of St George’s Hospital again, this time for an echocardiogram. A what? Unless you’re of a certain age, you might suspect the term has more to do with social media than medicine.

You might expect, too, from earlier stories that a blog about me and that extraordinary hospital must mean accounts of massive amounts of time admiring the décor of waiting rooms. But, dear readers, not at all!

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
How absolutely amazing ... to be alive thanks to the tireless work of that astonishing muscly pump. The 'film show' proved how fantastic and lucky we humans, and worldly inhabitants, are thanks to that solo pump. Photo by Paloma A. on Unsplash

When I attended the same department the other day I had followed the NHS ‘Don’t be late – or else’ advice in the written invitation.

That time I arrived about quarter of an hour early and was kept waiting almost three hours.

Rusty maths

Today I walked into Reception 40 minutes early. Wondering what that might cost, my rather rusty maths tried a guess.

It seemed to amount to about four hours, proving perhaps that even ocean navigators can be rather lacking mathematicians when deprived of a calculator.

It seemed there’d be plenty of time to write several articles for blogs, and perhaps a short story or two, too. I plonked down, pulled out the laptop, and wondered what damning things I might write tonight about this giant hospital and its own unique variation of Greenwich Meantime and definition of the word punctual.

The 'film show' proved how fantastic and lucky we humans - and worldly inhabitants - are thanks to that solo pump.

However, hardly had I opened the variation of a latter-day typewriter than – surprise, surprise - my name was called. A pleasant young man took me off to the heart probing rooms. He was Sam, a very alert Finn with an excellent command of our language.

As if my ribs were slashed open

Shirt off, lie on a couch, some liquid dabbed here and there for the electrodes, and soon Sam was filming and inspecting my heart almost as clearly as if he’d been a surgeon who had just slashed open my ribs.

He studied this aspect of the heart and then another and looked down from the neck at the wonder mechanism that each of us possesses, and then upwards from the diaphragm.

Perhaps a quarter of an hour later, the filming done, and the heart returned to the green room, Sam guided me through the shots, giving me the very rare and extraordinary chance to see my own vital organ at work. It is one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.

I’m not at all sure why but watching that amazing human machine working so tirelessly took me back to my solo voyage around the world.

How amazing, I realised suddenly, that for all of those long months without a human closer than hundreds if not thousands of miles, this extraordinary organ kept on pumping the vital fluid around the equally vital irrigation plan.

Of the navigation I worried over, of the long nights on watch, or watching out that limbs didn’t get caught or injured around and up the schooner rig, I never thought once about how the heart would cope with long sleepless periods, of days when conditions were too bad to cook, and the physical demands of a small yacht shaken and bashed vigorously by storms.

That amazing body pump

And yet that amazing body pump kept on going 24 hours a day without complaint.

How absolutely amazing, I thought, to be alive thanks to the tireless work of that astonishing muscly pump. The 'film show' proved how fantastic and lucky we humans - and worldly inhabitants - are thanks to that solo pump.

Yet how odd that this most fantastic bit is hidden away from all of us – usually for all our lives, and so seldom is awarded even a thought.

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

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