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.

Poor old airlines complaining publicly about the truly xenophobic virus doing the international circuit and discouraging the idea of flying anywhere.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Busy city ... Kathmandu is packed almost constantly, and no less at its busy airport, as I discovered. Many thanks to Wikipedia for the shot.
Of course, we shouldn't, but I couldn't help thinking back to the many times that airlines have shown no sympathy whatsoever in getting their check-in queues checked into flights.

Let me tell you about my worst experience.

It was my first flight with Air India and as I hope you'll understand, the only time I entrusted my life to that airline.

I was involved in seeing the world, but not from a ship or with some tour operator, but simply overland from the Antipodes by any mode of transport as long as it was going more or less West.

A part of the world I really wanted to see was India.

A shock to European eyes

It has another name now, but back then it was famous/infamous old Calcutta, which followed my journeying through Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, around Burma, and into Pakistan, which also carries another name.

Calcutta - as the spelling went then - was a wild place and a real shock to European eyes which had never seen the sort of poverty that vast metropolis hosted.

I walked its main streets to discover its mood but instead I saw extreme poverty and danger.

The safest bet, I imagined, would be to stay in a YMCA.

I found a seemingly organised one and checked in. Near its door, as if a reminder of reality, lay a corpse or two. The street seemed to be home to what looked like tribes of utterly impoverished families.

Shocked by so many astonishing street scenes, I looked forward to a peaceful, safe sleep behind a well-locked bedroom door.

It seemed I'd hardly welcomed the sandman when I thought heard a noise, a weird sound, like skin being, well, sandpapered.

Dear God! A snake

Then something pushed my head up a little from the pillow. Dear God, a snake!

I had little experience of Indian snakes - or any of the species - and probably did exactly the wrong thing.

I grabbed it. The snake became an arm, and the arm was attached to a body, and there in the half-light stood the manager's son.

He'd been searching for a wallet or passport but didn't wait around to explain.

The strangest airline behaviour followed soon afterward. As a journalist who didn't comprehend what the Nixon administration claimed about drugs, I took a very scary bus ride up to Kathmandu, the centre of drugs-taking, he reckoned.

Instead, Kathmandu was a wonderful place and living proof (as I've mentioned here before) of the extreme exaggeration of Tricky Dicky.

That very scary bus ride up into Nepal was certainly not to be tried again. I opted for an Air India flight back to India.

At the airport, I was directed to join a crowd outside the building. After a while, an aircraft came over from the main runways and parked nearby.

The 'check-in' to the flight was, well, rather different. The crowd - all at once - stampeded for the aircraft. Not walking, not a gentle jog, but haring as if their lives depended on it.

They seemed to burst through the aircraft doors and rushed madly for a seat.

I waited for anger to burst over the intercom as aircrew attempted to reprimand the passengers.

Flung itself into the air

Not at all. The doors closed, the plane waddled out to the main runway, picked up speed, and seemed to fling itself into the air.

The airport looked as if it was built in a sort of volcanic cone, with a steep ridge right round. The plane flew at it as if harakiri must the destination.

At what felt like the last moment, the aircraft rose to skim over the ridge.

For the very long drop down to India, the flight almost stood on its nose as it hurtled downwards.

In youth, I had endured quite a lot of aerobatics from a friend who owned a Tiger Moth and a craze for looping and spinning.

Nothing he did could have matched the adrenalin-encouraging flight down to India.

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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