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.

I was monitoring Sarah Montague’s Radio 4 World at One when a note or two of Abba’s hit Waterloo sent me reliving more than a month of intense drama - followed by its opposite - far back in the yesteryears.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Preparations... Friends help get Homeward Bound 2 ready for her attempt on a distance record.
The music introduced an interview with Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus.

But it flung me immediately to the other side of the world, to the very remote but wonderful island of St Helena.

It's where some years ago I was guest of honour – and how – of the very hospitable and wonderful councillor, the late John Musk.

He had moved to the island from Surrey many years earlier. I arrived there after a month adrift on a dismasted and almost storm-wrecked supposedly ocean-going dinghy.

The little craft, Homeward Bound 2, pitchpoled a month earlier in the South Atlantic, fairly close to 30 degrees South, but quite far from the nearest piece of land, St Helena Island, the British dependency at 15°56'S x 05°43'W.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Ready, set ...... Homeward Bound 2 is towed out to a start line beside the South Atlantic for her attempt on a singlehanded voyage to Brighton in the English Channel.
The sudden and quite severe storm also broke her mast, swamped her, and while I swam clear, sunk her.

That mocking gale

It was quite a drama, as I tell in my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.

Suddenly at lunchtime today I could hear again the shriek of that mocking gale as it seemed to signal Gotcha, expecting this singlehanded Cape Horner to drown.

Stubborn me declined and, thankfully, the dinghy – presumably still carrying a lot of trapped air - surfaced.

I clung to her stern for some hours, and eventually found a way to clamber up onto the overturned hull.

Before the storm abated at around dawn, an out-of-kilter wave walloped into the little boat, threw me into the ocean again, and obligingly turned her right side up.

I swam to her and somehow clambered on board.

Easy to remember

What to do now? No point in lingering in that shipless part of the ocean. The nearest land, still far off, was St Helena which blessedly has an easy location to remember: 16 degrees South and almost on the Greenwich meridian.

Nuts and raisins donated by encouraging firms in the Cape was all the food that remained from the overturning. Thankfully, my sextant had managed to hold on, too.

I erected an oar which somehow had survived and attached some clothing to it and off the gallant vessel sailed. Not at the usual speed, however, though occasionally did we hit half a knot.

A month later that brave dinghy found St Helena. The island authorities were hospitality itself and Councillor John Musk took me home to, well, feast and treat me royally.

And this is where Abba joins the anecdote.

The wonderful fellow gave me the opportunity of not just hearing his favourite group, but also to learn the lyrics of all of the Abba hits which – as memory has it – played in the house from dawn till around midnight for each of the many days I was treated so regally on the island.

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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