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.

The amazing heavenly event today in the US stopped millions of Americans in their tracks and for many, as media photos show this evening, this seems to be from a beach. Then en masse tanning stopped for the short time it took the moon to pass across the face of the sun.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The Guardian newspaper reports on American excitement over the solar eclipse today.
I've visited the US often enough, and competed in a singlehanded round-the-world race which left from the East coast. For all of its appeal, I haven't longed to visit again, not till today.

How wonderful to have witnessed that extraordinary phenomenon.

The Guardian reported tonight, 'After weeks of anticipation, the sight of the moon’s silhouette passing directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but a halo-like solar corona and causing a precipitous drop in temperature, drew whoops and cheers from onlookers gathered in Madras, Oregon.

Eclipse glasses

“First contact!” someone yelled. Horns honked. Eclipse glasses were popped on to faces, all of which turned eastward to the sun.

As the sky grew dark ... eclipse viewers started to shout and cheer. The most common exclamation was: “Oh my God!” A ring of light glimmered around the black moon – the long-awaited corona, finally safe to view with the naked eye.

As quickly as it came, the eclipse receded, as the umbra – the location of the total shadow – bolted across the continent at an average speed of 1,700 miles per hour.

When all is said and done the “totality” will have engulfed a strip of the country occupied by 12.2 million people, joined temporarily by millions more who traveled to the 70-mile-wide eclipse path for the spectacle.'

Watched by rather less than millions

In the story of my swallowing the anchor voyage, Sailing to Purgatory, I report a similar event, albeit on a rather less grand scale, and watched by a few million people less. I was sailing alone, and a very long way from any other human.

I radio’d the St Helena authorities to give my ETA and came up into the cockpit on a wonderfully clear evening to enjoy a rare sky event. It seemed a fantastic way to end my final voyage.

With a view right into the heavens, I watched Venus and Jupiter merge in conjunction, seeming to dance with each other. Your narrator nearly strained his even older neck enjoying the wonders of Space from these latitudes.

St Helena has been a major location for astronomy since the 1760s, of course, hosting such celestial notables as Neville Maskelyne, Edmund Halley, and Admiral Duperry. Now I understood why.

- from Chapter 44, Sailing to Purgatory.

The photo on Facebook by Jesse Belleque on Unsplash.

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