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.

It’s a time of anniversaries in the life of this grounded circumnavigator. The other day, I invited readers to my very first sail after an extensive swallowing-the-anchor voyage across and down through the Atlantics exactly twenty years.

The singlehanded journey back then began in the Caribbean at 10° 13' North, reached partway up the Bay of Biscay where the mainsail split.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Ironic Fate ... With no handy icebergs on the Solent last week, ironic Fate relied on a chill night breeze as a reminder that sailing in the winter comes with a price. Photo by ray laskey on Unsplash
Then I sailed down through the Atlantics to the Roaring Forties, into the Southern Ocean.

A hard left followed, then came some exciting sailing, before dropping anchor at 16° South, St Helena.

Nightmarish anchorages

There were some nightmarish and wonderful pauses along the way in that extensive voyage.

My last harbouring, at Jamestown, on the final voyage happened on 27 February 1999, two decades ago to the day, almost to the minute.

Sailing to Purgatory told of the voyage. Of course, the 'purgatory' in my book's title didn't refer to wonderful, hospitable St Helena which is much more a Paradise, quite the opposite of the other biblical address.

Purgatory itself entered the picture quite a few months later. Extraordinarily, as if the journey might be part of some far-fetched novel, a corrupt prosecution team looking for a weekend sailor who apparently turned his hand to smuggling, decided to make me the villain.

I was ambushed and taken off to their London headquarters and grilled.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Island in the sun ... Hospitable and very scenic St Helena island, in the South Atlantic, the final anchorage on my swallowing-the-anchor voyage. Many thanks to Steve K and Google Maps for the image.
All who follow the notion we are brought up to believe, that Brit justice is the very best justice, would never have accepted what followed.

Top security prison

The now disbanded customs agency stuck to their own false story and made me part of the longest English criminal trial – about 18 months long.

The jury, bored out of whatever minds they possessed, accepted the ruse.

I was marched back to a top security prison to begin a sentence which back then was longer than the Lockerbie airline terrorist was serving. Somehow I survived the eight years and 14 days the sentence became finally.

What a treat then was last week’s sail, to recall many of the wonderful times of my last voyage.

Blessedly, no very scary ambush followed. But Fate with its wicked sense of humour wasn’t going to let it finish with the traditional he lived happily ever after conclusion.

The temperature plummeted

Your narrator was invited to attend a yacht pursuit discussion up on the deck of a very smart racing yacht. The winter sun went down and the temperature of the Hamble plummeted more than quickly, too.

It didn’t quite reach zero, but this delighted sailor all but froze in his light day clothes. How ironic for Fate to have arranged for the singlehanded Cape Horner to just about perish from exposure. Fortunately, only just about.

Almost a week later, the survivor of freezing, fog-filled days alongside Antarctica, and who somehow emerged in one piece after 2,934 days of captivity, stripped of all he possessed, should still be struggling to return to normal good landlubber health almost a week after the twentieth anniversary of swallowing the anchor.

Atishoo! Ironic Fate, indeed.

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

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