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.

Was Fate laughing at me on Monday when I journeyed through the ghost town of London and on three ghost trains to Tilbury docks, over on the Thames north shore, determined - Corona nightmare or not - to photograph the docks where 70 years ago to the day the family sailed off to the other side of the world.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The liner Columbus ... lays where the famous old ship, Orontes, waited to take the family to the other side of the world seventy years before. The suggestion of fog seems suspiciously like Fate getting up to an old trick.
As a little lad, I was very aware of the importance of the departure, as hopefully my school uniform freshly pressed and tie knotted neatly in the approved way showed.

I clutched my Kodak box Brownie, very unwilling to agree to parental prompts for it to go into our luggage.

Perhaps it was the early journalist in me, but the determined lad was going to photograph our mighty vessel, the 20,000-ton Orontes, as we left Noble Albion if it was the last thing he did.

‘Darling, it will be dark,’ my mother prompted. I pretended not to hear.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The good ship Orontes ... The good ship Orontes which introduced me to life at sea, and probably ensured that in adulthood I'd become a singlehanded Cape Horner.
This week a mighty ship stood where the Orontes was docked, and seventy years ago we passed through the self-same buildings that Cruise and Maritime Columbus’s passengers will be using.

A busy metropolis

In 1950, the Orontes resembled a busy metropolis with crowds of migrators weighed down with luggage searching for their cabins.

Soon a steward guided us - paying passengers - to our place on board.

Once we had our cabins, I decided, I’d be up on deck putting that gorgeous Brownie of mine through its paces.

I was shown my bunk. Wonderful. I sat on it. What would Long John Silver say of it, I wondered. How comfortable after the seemingly long, long journey from Southampton.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Tickets, please ... Still here after seventy years, passengers pass through the terminal on their way to the oceans of the world. How odd it feels to see it all looking much the same almost a lifetime later.
How would it feel if I stretched out … and I woke again somewhere in the Atlantic.

Pillars of Hercules

My first voyaging memory after that disappointment is my father waking me to show me the Pillars of Hercules, close to Gibraltar.

Of my junior passion for photography, though, I had not one shot of the departure.

Of course, that made me far more determined seven decades later to take quite a few photographs of the departure port.

No smart camera this time, it’s true, but surely no possible intervention by cynical Fate either.

Shock, horror ...

I walked from the station to the port and put my admittedly rather vintage Windowsphone to work.

Back at home, I offered the historic shots to the computer. Shock, horror, Photoshop revealed that a heavy fog must have covered the port.

Fate hadn’t forgotten. I often put memos to myself on masking tape which I stick to the back of the phone. I’ve done it for years.

Somehow, on possibly my last visit in life to this important staging post, somehow, a corner of the paper tape had stuck to an edge of the phone's camera lens. Fate, no doubt.

Words that hopefully a seven-year-old might have been a stranger to followed.

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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