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.

Lucky, lucky lone yachtsperson Jeanne Socrates ploughing across the Southern India Ocean, down in the Roaring Forties, remarkably without interference from the sea or the weather.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
One man and his boat ... Spirit of Pentax at the start of the circumnavigation, long before her overturning in the Southern Ocean.
I say lucky, but much of her good fortune must be attributable to her skill.

Well, she is a very experienced sailor, and no stranger to the anfractuosities of the Southern Ocean and its fringes.

The Roaring Forties, though, is home to king-sized waves and extraordinarily powerful weather.

Jeanne, 76, is determined to become the oldest woman to sail solo ​​nonstop​ ​unassisted around the world​, plus the first woman to sail solo nonstop unassisted around the world from North America.

186th day at sea

Early this morning, her navigation equipment put her at 40˚ 41' 23“ S 102˚ 17' 24“ on this her 186th day at sea and alone.

On my 97th day, I was not far from her position. Of course, I sailed as most circumnavigators do, from Plymouth, UK, whereas Jeanne chose the unusual route from the Pacific coast of the US.

The advantage is that the major, scary challenge of getting round Cape Horn comes early in the voyage.

It allows Jeanne to believe that she has managed successfully the riskiest part of the immense voyage. Without a doubt, though, for a solitary person, the whole route is, as the expression goes, fraught with danger. One has only to slip, and topple overboard, for instance.

I was near Jeanne's longitude, though a little further north as I aimed very slowly for Perth, in West Australia.

The schooner, Spirit of Pentax, had been badly damaged when a storm turned her over not far from South Africa.

The foremast was bent and cracked which left the yacht, which didn't have an engine, with quite a challenge.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.

Very peaceful

Jeanne wrote yesterday, 'Very peaceful - neither wind noise nor noise from sails! Still drifting with genoa furled in and wind generator blades totally still ... drifting due S at 0.7kt.

'Slept very badly last night, drifting around and having had to furl in genoa, so hoping to make up on sleep this afternoon.

'Will have quick breakfast and then see what I can get done today - have several small jobs to do before thinking about the mainsail repair.'

Life on board Pentax was rather different as I aimed for Western Australia.

As Google Maps shows, as if we need any reminding, the distance between Africa and Australia is immense down there on the ocean.

As I tell in the story of the story of the voyage, Loner (Hodder and Stoughton), in spite of the ocean's usually strong breeze, I tried putting a small sail onto the damaged foremast. And it worked.

The sail filled and helped progress.

'It is a beautiful day. The old ribs have been extremely painful - if possible I must get them x-rayed.'

A premonition

I keep experiencing a premonition that we're going to see a ship and that finds me on watch much more than usual.

The following day, when I used a radio direction finder to locate Australia, I found a signal, Hooray! It was picking up signals from the Swan River aero beacon, Western Australia.'

As usual with a gale, a good charge of electricity was going into the batteries ... I decided to devote some time to trying to get the high-frequency radio to transmit.
So often it seems in the open ocean that if Fate treats you, beware the price. 'The wind now increased till a gale was blowing. The disturbed sea started to fill the schooner.'

However, it did have a plus side. I relied on a power charger for electricity, and the gale soon had the windmill working handsomely.

'As usual with a gale, a good charge of electricity was going into the batteries so I decided to devote some time to trying to get the high-frequency radio to transmit.

'Up to now I'd only been able to use it for listening to music stations near South Africa, to the BBC World Service, and to eavesdrop on Ham chat in the Atlantic and Indian oceans.'

It seemed a long time since the radio had earned its place on board with its real purpose. Memory needed some prompting.

'I got out the instruction manual for the radio and pedantically followed the book in every move.'

My studious approach was rewarded. Soon I was conversing, albeit in broken radio talk, to the first human I'd spoken to for months. It was truly wonderful.

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

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