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.

How can it be, asks a reader from Italy, that our solo Brit round-the-world sailor, Jeanne Socrates, aged 76, avoids serious problems.

She never falls overboard, doesn't play chicken involuntarily with ships, doesn't get rammed, isn't phased by ocean monsters, like killer whales and tiger sharks, notes Michael from Pisa.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Setting off ... The open boat about to depart on an attempt to set a new long-distance ocean record. A few hundred miles later, she was knocked down by high storm waves, trapping her skipper underwater. She didn't turn back till the next day.
'Think of the stories of Bernard Moitessier, Vito Dumas, Rose, and Chichester,' Michael writes. 'This lady must have God riding shotgun.

'Didn't you come to grief in the Southern Ocean? Weren't there times when you were really afraid?'

Michael's reminder does make it seem wonderful that Jeanne, who appeared on this page last night, has been spared really serious situations that hit many round-the-worlders.

Had my share

I have to admit having had my share - rolled over, a seriously damaged foremast, a very close call or two with ships that didn't seem to have anyone on watch.

And a luxury yacht sunk after running into a submerged obstruction. Eight drama-filled days followed in a liferaft harrassed by sharks.

Michael asks about experiencing real fear, but usually serious mishaps require immediate attention and that in itself doesn't leave time for the luxury of realising how scared you are.

Perhaps the most worrying experience happened a little north of the Roaring Forties. I was trying to establish a record for the longest open boat voyage when a huge wave threw the little sailing boat upside down.

I tell a little about it in the book of my swallowing-the-anchor voyage, Sailing to Purgatory.

... I was trapped underneath, beneath the ocean surface. I held my breath, of course, while feeling about for whatever obstruction held me down. Half a minute passed, three-quarters of a minute, perhaps more than a minute.

The situation was desperate, almost beyond it. I couldn’t think of a sensible reason not to breathe, not that a lot of sensible thinking was possible by then.

Not breathing made the distress worse by the second – worse than worse. Perhaps one breath wouldn’t matter. At the same time it surely had to answer the painful compulsion.

A gulp of the sea

By that stage, it wasn’t much of a choice. I opened my mouth. I gasped. I can’t pretend that this part was voluntary.

Instead of air, of course, a gulp of the sea flooded in. My first reaction was genuine surprise: the intake didn’t sting. My lungs didn’t feel on fire. I wasn’t compelled to cough and choke. Nothing like that.

The desire for the next breath wasn’t anywhere near as demanding. I delayed it, amazed while wondering why that breath, the gulp, the intake, didn’t ignite a spasm of fatal, extremely painful gasping.

Instead, the exhaled air, the loss of some buoyancy, caused me to sink a little. Something tight across my chest slackened. I felt for it and found the lifeline that fastened me to the mast. I had completely forgotten it ... I felt along the line, found it snagged in the broken mast.

I freed it and rose immediately, shot up, in fact. My head broke through the surface.

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

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