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.

The anniversary of the highlight of what might rate as an overly-adventurous life happens this Wednesday. Twenty years ago to the very day, I landed at St Helena Island at the end of the 8,000 miles swallowing-the-anchor voyage of my professional yachtsman's life.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Sinking ... Eight days of intense drama in a liferaft followed this sinking in the South Atlantic of a yacht Paul was delivering from Rio.
Although, as the name states, it was to be the retirement, the finish of the adventure side of a life packed with quite an assortment of sea dramas.

For instance, I'd spent eight days in a liferaft after the yacht I was delivering from Rio sank not far from the Roaring Forties.

A young woman and I were tormented by increasing schools of tiger sharks that seemed determined to have us.

The weather was very worrying, and the only vessel we ever saw was the container ship that blessedly rescued us.

Trapped underwater

On another voyage, a yacht I sailed solo was knocked down in a storm. I was trapped underwater in the rigging.

When it surfaced eventually, I drifted in what was left of the hulk for thirty days till I reached safety.

And yet nothing matched the crooked, man-made nightmare, the complete altering of life, that followed my very relieved landing at that island where Napoleon saw out his days.

Before the crooks in uniform had their way, life looked wonderful. I had fallen in love with a young yachtswoman who joined me as soon as I arrived on my final shore. And astonishingly to classical music-mad me, the lady turned out to be a concert pianist.

'We were ambushed'

However, what was to follow would defy the most imaginative crime writing. As we visited friends, we were ambushed. I think I can say it was the most frightening drama of my life.

I hope the experience will help me decide whether to take on another big singlehanded voyage.
The now disbanded Customs agency accused me of smuggling, took me off to their HQ, and I didn't leave custody for another eight years and fourteen days.

At one stage, my sentence - for a crime I most definitely didn't do, nor could have done - was greater than the years the Lockerbie bomber was serving, and in that horror bombing, 243 passengers, sixteen crew, and some on the ground were killed.

So far, I have not been able to get our system of justice - the envy of the world, remember - to admit to the appalling injustice.

In the meantime, to celebrate the astonishing anniversary, I am going to sail for the first time since my swallowing-the-anchor voyage two decades ago.

Planning a return to the sea?

An experienced sailor will take me on one of his very smart yachts out into the Solent. We'll sail from Southampton Water, and perhaps spend an hour or two in the Solent. I hope the experience will help me decide whether to take on another big singlehanded voyage.

Am I planning to return to the sea? What is the plan? I can confirm that there certainly is a plan. If Wednesday's sail works for me, I'll reveal the plan soon.

More about that voyage of twenty years ago, and the appalling series of dramas that followed is told Sailing to Purgatory.

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

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