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.

IF YOU WRITE AND SEEK STORY IDEAS - romance, horror, bigotry, or travel - you might struggle to find a better location than where I am now.

I'm in Cape Town, probably our world's most attractive ocean-fronting city. Whales play close to the shore, shoppers and sellers gossip non-stop in the main street under the gaze of astonishingly high mountains just, almost, a stone's throw away.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Tell me a story .... I'm visiting a nation of enthusiastic story-tellers. Many thanks to photographer Mike Erskine and Unsplash for the photo.

Look out to sea and the mighty Southern Ocean shimmers all the way to the horizon.

Stare up at the often cloudless sky and it's as if you are gazing into Space, albeit Space tinted a gorgeous light blue by day, and blacker than black in star and planet strewn nights.

Breathtaking, often horrifying

A visit is wonderful for the eyes, the people good for imagination, and the tales they tell surprisingly breathtaking, often amusing - and often horrifying.

Of course, wherever humans gather in the world, anecdotes - stories - are exchanged. It's what our species does.

But to me anecdotes seem to be told more passionately, more intensely, and often more desperately here. It feels as South Africans are really hungry for story-telling, perhaps because unlike most of the world, TV was denied them till the mid-seventies.

Of course, they were (probably are) great readers, with some very successful authors, but unlike most of us, they had to make do with moving pictures - the bioscope, as it is quaintly termed here - for a shared story-telling experience.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you of the first story I heard, overheard, as it was recounted almost in a sort of stereo effect by two women in a busy coffee shop, a bloody story of heroism and horror.

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