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 puzzling over the location of our promised Paradise, way up there somewhere, and wondered if we should accept religion’s inference that we don't need to know the latitude and longitude.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Shipwrights at work ... Getting the ark ready for Noah. But ... where's the means of propulsion. We see no sails, no oars, not even an outboard engine. An artist's depiction of the construction of the Ark, from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). Many thanks to Wikipedia.
It's not very seafaring, but I'll have to accept the bible’s assertion that once our soul departs this world, it’ll know – somehow – exactly where to go.

It has to be a little like planning to sail around the world.

We know where Cape Horn lies, yet we don’t need the precise navigational position until we get going.

Final journey

However, I have to admit that long before departure, I had memorised the QTH, and positions navigationally speaking of the other great landmarks along the Southern Ocean way, too, as lone circumnavigators will.

The voyage made for a truly wonderful experience, but of course it can be nothing like our final journey when we’ve said farewell, bravely or not, to relatives and friends gathered round the death bed.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Stowaways? ... The only crew actually signed on have four legs, or wings. Are these stowaways or perhaps the secret admirers in Noah's life, determined to keep him on the straight and narrow? A woodcut of Noah's Ark from Anton Koberger's German Bible. Many thanks to Wikipedia.
Once that’s happened, you can’t ask anyone, ‘Oh, before I go, do let me have that Lat and Long again, please.’

You must trust those that, well, know.

Nowadays, most of us are aware of where we’re heading thanks to navigational aids - gadgets on a dashboard, or GPS handhelds, like my magnificent (but out of date) Magellan Meridian, or a programme on your mobile phone.

However, on that final journey, faith, and trust in what we’re told, has to do.

A rough compass bearing

I wonder what gifted navigators like James Cook and Drake and Columbus and Nelson and Magellan (the human Magellan, that is) felt about not having much more than a rough compass bearing.

I had accepted that Noah must have been the earliest of navigators out there, not that I’m so sure he ever did venture Out There.

Noah’s voyage seems to be very long ago, only I’ve just learned that earning his passage to Paradise happened only comparatively recently. Yes, recently, comparatively.

I’m looking at pictures of corpses made ready for some sort of post-life destination some 35,000 years ago.

That’s a long time back. Very! And if we were writing a thank you letter for an evening at a friend’s, what date would we chisel into the stone tablet?

‘25th September, 32,980 BC,’ Windows 10 tells me.

The realisation that the path to Paradise has been trod for a very long time came in an article by Lea Surugue in Sapiens dot org

She reveals that hunter-gatherers buried their dead at Sunghir, east of Moscow, around 34,000 years ago.

Dressed up and made-up

The extraordinary revelation is that way back then the dead weren’t just planted. They were dressed up, made up, and given gifts like ivory spears and disks, beads and ochre, and cervid antlers, to take with them.

The corpses must have been treated in some special way for in the article they are still recognisable as humans even after that vast distance in time.

Miss Surugue writes, ‘This finding challenges us to see that these humans may have had rich beliefs about death and about how the deceased should be treated.’

The gifts packed in with them? Of course, for surely they were to grease the palms of winged guardians checking passports et al at the gates of Paradise, just as we might wink saucily at officials at Immigration at Heathrow.

Reassurance then. We’ll get by alright without the navigational numbers.

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,

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The blogs for Sailing to Purgatory are introduced on Facebook.

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