What's the last thing you want to see when sailing alone around the world? A lighthouse … because the last thing you need to see is land and that, of course, is exactly what a lighthouse announces.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Not for solo voyaging ... Also rarely seen on an ocean voyage, a mermaid surely. Photo by David Hofmann on Unsplash
'Head this way for solid ground and people and fun,' they promise, which is strictly the last experience desired by a determined soul with a very long seaway to go.


It's really amazing how far you can travel and not see a soul, not a hint of humans, their habitations, their land, their ships, even their aircraft.

If you're on your own, as I was for my Cape Horn voyage, that's the way you want it, the way you need it to be.

Of course, you miss company, the sight of any face other than your own in a mirror, but the mission, the project, the rather demented determination, depends on it.

If you're careful and your sextant navigation is close to precise, it's quite extraordinary how far you can go and not see anything but the sea, and the sky.

I looked over my shoulder at Plymouth as I left, enjoyed glimpses of the coast, but soon I was on my tod. I saw a little of Portugal, but by the Equator, the sails need you to be far from solid World.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Ahoy, seafarer! ... I needed to find land and this wonderful lighthouse down there on the edge of the Southern Ocean guided me to safety. Chris Binnington features it on his Facebook page. Many thanks to Chris for the wonderful reminder.
Months later, after Cape Horn, I encouraged myself to cross far south of the South Atlantic and to try for a second rounding.

Recurring problem

Fortunately, in many ways, a recurring steering problem raised its head again, probably not surprising given the huge seas Spirit of Pentax travelled through, and into.

Soon I realised I would have to put in a left and sail up towards the Cape, and Cape Town.

The sextant had been such a brilliant aid far out to sea, but closing land demands very precise navigation.

And I was reminded of that real tension when I saw good friend Chris Binnington's Facebook page.

He offered his followers a look at a mighty and very important lighthouse edging the Southern Ocean.

And the photo took me straight back to the circumnavigation, and a very worried night sailing towards where I estimated and hoped South Africa to be.

A tiny beam flashed

Suddenly a tiny beam flashed through the night and the spray – a lighthouse! I spotted this magnificent building at about dawn.

It probably looks like, well, a lighthouse to most of us.

However, it was the equivalent of a heavenly visitation at the time, and this friendly and beautiful construction pointed me towards Cape Town, and the most astonishing and wonderful welcome a man could experience.

No wonder, I thought, that Captain Cook had such little trouble recruiting crews for his extraordinary voyaging.

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Are you a sailor ... or simply love the sea?

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Chris Binnington's Facebook page

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The blogs for Sailing to Purgatory are introduced on Facebook.