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.

With a wry smile, I endured a king-sized downpour on my bike on an afternoon when the meteorologists assured us of a dry late winter’s day. And it poured, bucketed down!

It isn’t pleasing to have gallons of fresh water poured down the neck of your bright yellow cycling jacket, and to be squirted – hosed – over your lower back as puddles learning to be lakes are flicked up by the back tyre.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Stormy weather ... The sea as it works towards a storm. All my photos from that voyage were grabbed by the then customs department and never returned. Photo by John Towner on Unsplash

How heroic to endure it so bravely, you might think, but a good mix of sarcasm was mixed in.

One of the last big storms I endured on my swallowing-the-anchor voyage, down in the Roaring Forties, was scorned by the prosecution in a ghastly trial held in camera which claimed I was smuggling.

Jolly boating weather

A storm? There was no storm, mocked the prosecution, and produced a fellow said to be a UK meteorologist who refused to accept that a storm occurred then.

He inferred that I was enjoying jolly boating weather, down in that area noted for, named after, its notorious weather.

And that gross injustice was very much in mind at the weekend because we are close to Valentine’s Day and the storm I endured happened on the 13th of February.

The irony at the weekend was that experts couldn’t get the weather right in their own neck of the woods, and yet had the gall to offer ‘evidence’ that had me sent down to a longer prison sentence than the terrorist in the Lockerbie bombing.

A dull jury

The weather I endured in the Southern Ocean, an area I have often sailed, was far more ferocious than anything we see in Britain, and several barristers challenged the prosecution, citing the many times our official forecasting had been completely out.

However, a dull jury swallowed the prosecution’s claims.

I told of those conditions the day before Valentine’s in my book of that final 8,000-mile voyage, Sailing to Purgatory.

… my eyes close, then a thunderous approach from astern has me jolted alert again. There's quite a clash between the demand for action and the need for sleep. Thankfully, second nature steps in the moment the alert sounds and repetitive response counters the arriving flood - usually just a turn to port or starboard is needed, keeping the white water at the transom.

You hear the threatening waves well before they appear. You turn downwind automatically, as if the gale operates your ears as reins. Of course, the canvas has to be adjusted - reduced, dropped, or changed, certainly shaped.

When the storm and the grown-up waves get too much, you lie a’hull. Down comes all sail to be lashed firmly into place or bundled below. Now with bare topsides, the rudder tells the yacht to point into the wind.

There's insufficient momentum for the boat to answer the demand. Instead she sits, quite magically, with the wind just abaft the beam. The sea recognises the manoeuvre as a white flag. For the yachtmaster, it's next to experiencing a miracle.

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

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