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 noting a lack of interest in sailing and boating among the munchers tucking in at a crowded Brighton Marina this week. Brighton is where my circumnavigation - and more - began. I expected, of course, conversations on all sides to be about sails and racing techniques, and the best global sailing routes.

Instead, I heard about tasty this and delicious that and which wine might be worth the investment.

However, suddenly from the general hubbub rose a 'Let's look at that one.' This came from a young couple and the point of interest was actually a vessel chained to a jetty.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Speedy gal ... but the conversation was not even about her motorised capability.

I followed them down to the point of interest, a … I confess it hurts to write about a motorised vessel, but as this turned out to be the only vessel to arouse curiosity, I had better put sailcloth snobbery to a side.

Keen ogling

The youngish couple hurried along a jetty and stopped before a sort of fast motorised boat for sale.

They actually ogled the vessel keenly, so much so that I edged closer to earwig the conversation.

I wondered if their dream might be to roar down the Atlantic and turn left into the Med. Or perhaps to enthuse about the Canary Island’s large leeward areas which would suit a speedy vessel like this almost perfectly.

At last, I thought, I would experience some seafaring enthusiasm, and if not about spinnakers and spars, at least about storms struggled through and perfect nights on exotic anchorages.

I moved in closer, pretending to be taking a snap of the fleet hibernating on the jetties.

She: Yes I like that one.
He: It would suit us.
(I hid a shiver on behalf of mariners at the landlubber-degenderising of a vessel.)
She: You know what I think?
He: Go on.
She: I think you could push the seats back to make a bed.
He: I think you could.
She: And if the other seat went back, too, there'd be two beds.
He: Perhaps a double.
She: I think so. Then it wouldn't matter what they've got downstairs ...

Anorexic Pentax

I hope you'll understand why I couldn’t listen in to more. It such a change for conversation at Brighton over a mere, well … surely it couldn’t really be thirty-seven years. Back in the days of anorexic Pentax, with Bob Abrahams, and Chris West, and the late Ron Pell and Jack Huke, all you would have heard was talk of deep ocean sailing, or speed and spars and Pete Sanders' brilliant sails, conversation brim-full of enthusiasm for what lay out there, very far away.

I shouldn't have been surprised. The jury in that appalling trial had not the slightest idea about going to sea, knew nothing of the sea whatsoever, it seemed, and swallowed the nonsense fed to them by the prosecution. I thought of it as outright deceit, but it might be that the prosecution knew as little about it as the impatient, in-fighting group in the jury box for England's longest criminal trial.

How odd if the comforts and the easy living of today mean we have grown out of our seafaring past, forgotten those days when England taught the world English, and when we civilised - at least, as we imagined it - the most distant parts of the globe, and all managed by the superb use of sail.

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