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 the anniversary of sailing around notorious old Cape Horn back in, well, memory seems to suggest 1981. Could it really be so long ago?

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Trials before the tribulations ... A crew of helpers join me for a brief sail shortly before the start of the singlehanded circumnavigation.
The question happens to have been put to the bathroom mirror. It raises its eyebrows satirically and nods a wry at least that long ago.

I ask the book of the voyage, Loner, if this anniversary might warrant a bow? It seems not to hear.


Real problems began near the start. The vital wind-vane self-steering gear wouldn’t work, didn’t work, until far down the South Atlantic.

It’s quite likely that if the genius behind Autohelm hadn’t been such a generous friend and helper, I doubt that I would have navigated that mighty beast, Spirit of Pentax, as far the Equator.

And when I think back, all the way to those crazy days, I remember that it was the huge army of helpers who deserve the congratulatory pats on the back.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Gorgeous Lilian, such a brilliant supporter, packed the food for every meal for the 14 months the voyage might take (if a number of becalmings were to happen), and each in its own waterproof package, and every one with an encouraging message.

Artist Bob Abrahams worked on a smashing design for the yacht's appearance, and guided the painters.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The workers ... Gerry Adamson among helpers who worked hard to get the schooner ready for the circumnavigation. Gerry is standing at the foot of the ladder for this family snap.
I hoped, I expected, to circumnavigate in perhaps ten months, but seafaring always has the risk of a series of long calms.

The schooner had no engine, so a flat calm would mean being stopped still, even going back the way I had sailed if a malevolent ocean current dictated it.

Writing in haste

When I made it and arrived back in Plymouth, Loner, waited to be written and in a hurry because somehow or other I found myself entered into a round-the-world solo race from the US just six weeks later.

Writing Loner in haste was far from a good idea, which I expect I was warned about at the time.

The helpers made the voyage a success. The yacht herself was a home-made job and far from the right choice. However, I went with recommendations … it might be kinder not to say more about that.

However, rushing the story was unwise and had at least two grave oversights.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Amazing Ron Pell who put so much time into getting the yacht as shipshape as possible from a carpentering aspect simply didn’t appear in Loner at all.

More than a little crazy

And engineering friend, Jack Huke, who gave selfless hours and hours to the project, had his surname misspelt.

Projects like this, bold and probably more than a little crazy, really depend on your friends.

Take Gerry Adamson, of Portchester, who guessed the vast number of eggs a voyage of 14 months might need, and Vaseline’d every one of the hundreds of them.

Sadly, there are too many amazingly helpful friends to salute here as they should be, and very sadly many, including Ron and Jack, are no longer with us.

I’m toying with the notion of doing it again – attempting to circumnavigate solo again – planning/hoping to pass the Horn 40 years after the first time.

Sadly overlooked

In the meantime, though, very often I get Loner down from the bookcase and look through the army of names of helpers, people who made it possible back then.

I recall those that somehow were unforgivably overlooked in the rush to present the manuscript of Loner to the publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, and admired editor Maggie Body. Very, very sorry, and sincere apologies, if you are one of them.

Thank you all, and thanks very much to you 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 and on Blogger,

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The blogs for Sailing to Purgatory are introduced on Facebook and Blogger.

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