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This lapsed sailor looked at the remarkably smooth water waiting and wondered. Would I enjoy it? Will two decades of land-lubbering have wobbled my sea legs, will I remember how to steer by tell tales alone?

And my sailing friend pushed his gorgeous sailing yacht away from the jetty, and we were sailing.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
I must go down to the sea again ... After a break of exactly 20 years, the singlehanded Cape Horner gets a taste of the salt-water life again. This was the man and yacht two decades earlier, before a crooked prosecution stole his freedom and possessions.

‘Que ora es?’

‘Nineteen to 12,’ he said. And but for the difference of about three hours, it was my first return to that great love, the briny, in exactly twenty years.

Back in 27th February, 1999, I had signalled the authorities on St Helena before sailing into the historic anchorage at Jamestown, at the end of an amazing swallowing-the-anchor voyage.

Split mainsail

As I tell in Sailing to Purgatory, my final 8,000-mile passage back then sailed from West to East across the North Atlantic, visited islands, tried to make UK, but had to turn back in the Bay of Biscay when the mainsail split.

And I met on the Canary Islands who I thought would be the future Mrs R, but because of a three into two entanglement that Sailing to Purgatory relates, felt obliged to do the British thing - the decent thing, that is - and sail away.

My gorgeous Farr 38, eM, and your narrator sailed off, down to the Equator, through the Doldrums, down through the South Atlantic to the Roaring Forties, into the Southern Ocean. I tried to make Cape Town, but the winds in that notorious part of the world weren’t having any.

However, I could make St Helena, an island I knew well, and where I had friends, and some very happy – and relieved - memories from navigating there with a sextant after a month adrift on a dismasted, engineless yacht, with only nuts and raisins for food.

The gorgeous and ancient seaway

On the good ship, Tigris, in a faint breeze, we sailed slowly across the Solent to Cowes, up the Medina a little way, and then sailed back across the gorgeous and ancient seaway to Hamble.

... there's no need to rush. We’ll be here for you, whenever.’
I really have very little idea of how much time I spent in Paradise for I was enjoying every moment of it too much to follow the clock. Of course, I couldn’t help but note when the tide turned, and hail e Koro at the meridian, even if I didn’t have a sextant with me for a noon sight.

We returned to the marina close to sunset. It had been a glorious outing, a wonderful time.

I expected the sea and the elements to tell me right away if I should begin planning a momentous voyage soon. Instead, I seemed to hear wise advice, ‘You know now you can’t wait to get back to voyaging. But there's no need to rush. We’ll be here for you, whenever.’

Many, many thanks to that kind very experienced sailor who let me taste and remember enormous pleasure. Tomorrow: a little of the cruel history of the cause of that 20-year pause.

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

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