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.

You certainly know you’re getting old when the anniversary of a war comes along, a war only luck kept you from being in the front line, and it’s slipped from your memory.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Davy Jones-bound ... The Argentian World War 2 light cruiser was sunk, taking 323 young men with her to a watery grave in the South Atlantic. Thanks to Wikipedia for the photo.
I was there in the welcome for a war, and somehow memory had discarded the experience, at least, temporarily.

However, seeing the anniversary announced today, memory was elbowed and the scenes returned.


I’m sure most will remember the Falklands War.

It was the madness a blunt Mrs Thatcher might well have avoided with the desire to, with active Intelligence and firm diplomacy. Not knowing of trouble stirring, I had just sailed into the war zone, that very odd harbour of Port Stanley, in a rather odd craft, the schooner Spirit of Pentax.

I had just circumnavigated alone, rounding Cape Horn only a few days earlier. Plagued by troubles on the chartered homebuilt craft, I needed engineering help with a malevolent self-steering gear.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
No strangers, please ... Some of the locals who have only cold shoulders for civic welcomes. Photo by Yuriy Rzhemovskiy on Unsplash, with many thanks.

I tell of the event in my book, Loner (Hodder and Stoughton), and of that oddly eccentric yet often lovable society on the island. Many were wonderful to me, hospitality personified.

However, being very far from anywhere, many residents had become about as reclusive as a colony abandoned on the moon.

I was about to attempt a crossing of the highly-challenging Southern Ocean between South America and South Africa, a treacherous stretch of the Southern Ocean heavy with storms and massive swathes of thick fog.

Strange how Fate can interfere with plans. I often heard malevolence about the Argies. However, life in New Zealand as a Pom child had accustomed me to that mild form of xenophobia.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Not so alone sometimes ... With a war about to happen, Spirit of Pentax arrived in Port Stanley for urgent work. The word 'urgent', though, didn't seem to be understood on the island.
Evi, an Argie journalist, arrived at the yacht to interview me for an Argentinian newspaper.

I had been a journalist for half of my working life, so it was natural that we had lots of common ground to share. Wonderfully, the interview lasted for a few days.

I began to hear stronger and louder rumours of likely troubles from the island’s comparatively nearest neighbour. So much so, I recorded in Loner ...…

‘When Argentina tourists arrived, small groups of Stanley people picketed the shoreboats. With placards and abuse they told the Argies to piss off.’

Evi's newspaper called her home. She said, ‘May God bless you on your voyage. I go to shop to get cigarettes, I come back soon. Just think that is the way it is.’

She blew kisses. She called I see you soon as she walked up into the island's almost perpetual gale and off the boat.


Argie-hate grew in volume so with the self-steering repaired at last, I noted, ‘I was very pleased to be heading back to the relative calm of the Southern Ocean.’

I made (endured) the crossing, won a Guinness Book of Records record for the passage to Cape Town, and hardly had taken off my Henri-Lloyds, so it seemed, than …

‘I heard on the radio that the Argentinians had invaded the Falklands.’

No surprise to the locals, I suspected. How surprising that it had caught the then PM on the back foot.

Her thumbs down sunk the light cruiser, General Belgrano, drowning 323 crewmen – almost half of the Argentinian deaths in the war, reports Wikipedia - and perhaps that appeased the lady.

Thanks very much for visiting the mostly Tuesday and Thursday blogs for my adventure writing. The blogs (as they call 'em) are introduced each time on Facebook Facebook dot com/Sailingtopurgatory and on Blogger,

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