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.

Aren’t politicians coy when it comes to drugs – and drink? If you live in UK, tonight’s news will remind you of the capitalistic approach to drugs selling (not that it is put quite that way), and the worry about large numbers - almost 25,000 - sleeping on the streets here.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Peaceful Paradise ... The gorgeous old city did look a little different during my visit - rather more young Americans back then. This is a watercolor of Kathmandu Durbar Square, the royal palace complex, in 1852, painted by Henry Ambrose Oldfield (1822-1871). Thanks to Wikipedia for the pic.
And yet if any non-drugs-taker has suffered more than me – and is more aware of the social implications – I have yet to meet him.

I was a journalist with the handle of investigative reporter on a right-wing weekly when Tricky Dicky’s drugs laws started to be pushed all around the world.


I had no idea back then what the astonishing claims landing on my desk meant. Students out of their minds in drugs orgies, gangs making a fortune from drugs, a variation on what they term now as county gangs, where youths are employed to distribute the illegal stuff.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Safe at night ... No worries about going out at night in the ancient city of Kathmandu. Photo by Kartabya Aryal on Unsplash.

The allegations were amazing, but like so many young newspapermen, I expect, I was happy to be handed a 'hot' story.

I probably exaggerated it a bit, too, in the hope of making the front page.

Considerable doubt

However – thankfully – I began to experience considerable doubt.

How come I’d never seen a drugs party in full swing, or anyone swallow or sniff or inject drugs?

As usual, I saw drunks almost every day – the dilemma of our street people - but no-one affected, or even involved in drugs.

The message back then was that without the State adopting severe Tricky Dicky prohibition-style laws, we were all heading for perdition.

Like a good newspaperman (or as a conscientious newsman ought to be), I doubted the claims.

It seemed like another American Prohibition notion, and we know what happened there.

Non-western and gentle

I found a country that defied the US, where the law was non-western and gentle. Nepal was becoming well-known as a country that treated the Tricky Dicky notion with the disdain it deserved.

So I travelled there, and stayed in the capital, and wandered the streets at different hours of the day and night to see how a population not governed by those laws could possibly manage.

As I’ve mentioned in these ‘blogs’ before, Kathmandu was peaceful and a joy to visit.

And yet you could buy drugs on the street, in drugs shops, and you could have hash cookies with your coffee in their coffee shops.

I never saw any problems during the week or so that I was there. Had it been set up by anti-Nixonites for a damning film about his corrupt ways, the Kathmandu scene could hardly have been bettered.

Tricky Dicky got his revenge on this well-meaning young journo. I was just the age to do military training for his Vietnam war, which – Deo Gratias – ended shortly before my infantry battalion was about to embark for that strange land.

In middle years, I sailed around Cape Horn solo and fell in love with the oceans, and studied and graduated as a professional yacht skipper as an alternative to journalism.

Exciting and satisfying

I enjoyed an exciting and satisfying life on the oceans of the world.

When I retired, I sailed mostly alone on an 8,000-mile swallowing-the-anchor voyage. I came within 1,200 miles of the South Coast but completed the passage in the Cape.

Three months later, I was ambushed, charged with drugs smuggling and made to serve eight years and a fortnight, and years later I’m still fighting to have my name cleared. So much, for English justice, the envy of the world.

How Tricky Dicky must be smiling in his grave.

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 and on Blogger,

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

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