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.

Read Jeanne Socrates' blog from her circumnavigating yacht and you might feel there's more danger for us crossing the high street than for that courageous lady mariner – aged 76 – so far from home in the South Pacific.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Out in the wide blue yonder ... Singlehander Jeanne Socrates' internet chart shows that the brave lady is very far from anywhere - except danger.
We shouldn't be misled about the risks she doesn't highlight, nor even mention.

She lets us share her notes in the ship's log.

'Went rushing up on deck on hearing the horrid noise of the boom crashing around and the sails slatting... The wind had totally died … '

She makes the necessary adjustment and all is ship-shape. But at any time - and all the time - the greatest threat to Jeanne's health and her life is just inches away.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Happy days before ... Singlehander Jeanne Socrates is treated well by yacht clubs whose yachtsmen admire such an intrepid soul, able to sail vast distances alone, and seemingly without fear of the closeness of the end.
The good Brit writes about nagging problems with some equipment that actually is not much more than a modern extra for sailing.

The need for a snooze is often mentioned.

Sailing is a very physical sport, so tucking in features.

Hot chilli

'More than ready for some food now - just needs heating up - some chilli con carne plus some extra sweetcorn with a mug of soup before and a small chocolate brownie afterwards.'

She has only to trip on deck, take a step in the wrong direction, even faint, and Ms Socrates will be no more ...
Jeanne makes it all sound a bit of a doddle. However, this lady left a British Columbia port on 3rd October, and apart from a brief few strangely isolated days in New Zealand's Timaru harbour has not been in human company since.

That's just about nine months on her own. And for all the chat about this task and that minor repair, and napping and feasting, we don't read of her relief that she's alive still.

But please don't be fooled. She has only to trip on deck, take a step in the wrong direction, even faint, of course, and Ms Socrates will be no more, not that the end is likely to be peaceful nor quick.

I've not heard of an electronic gadget that could sense the calamity, and stop the yacht, lower the sails.

A very real danger

And yet it is an ever-present risk and a very real danger of solo sailing. Fall, and you could be floating in the water watching your beautiful vessel sailing away.

Many short-handed sailors use a harness to counter the risk by clipping on.

It's never been a favourite with me in my thousands of miles of singlehanded voyaging. Oddly the one time I did use one was during a South Atlantic storm. And it almost, just about, caused my death.

The storm overwhelmed the yacht, Homeward Bound 2. She turned over, sank several meters down, trapping me in the upside down rigging. I breathed seawater and assumed the end must be close.

Then, quite by accident, I discovered that the harness was holding me under.

As I tell in Sailing to Purgatory, because I wouldn't usually use one, I had forgotten that I had clipped it to the mast to counter blows from huge waves pummelling the yacht.

The yacht was now upside down in the ocean, quite a few meters below the surface.

I remembered, unclicked and surfaced, very relieved. The drama was far from over, but at least I was breathing fresh if rather drenched air again, and very grateful for it.

Thanks very much for visiting the mostly Tuesday and Thursday blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, which are introduced each time on Facebook Facebook dot com/Sailingtopurgatory

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