What a surprise, what a blast from the past, as they say, when veterinarian Sue, daughter of that wonderful sailor Ron Pell, arrived with some luggage of mine that had been stored in their home for rather a long time.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The prize ... The award from taking part in a race around the world.
Ron Pell, an admired friend of many, many years standing – and sailing – had a big airy cellar where he looked after some belongings during my years of professional seafaring.

I don’t actually remember when the cases which Sue brought were first lodged at Ron’s, now sadly the late lamented Ron.

It was certainly many, many years ago.

Look inside

And when Sue and I opened the cases to look inside, the first time the lids had lifted in perhaps three decades, a whiff of the air of the 1980s escaped.

The smell and the state of the goodies suggested that the cellar may not have been the driest part of Kent, but it was amazing to see goodies that I had fought hard for back in competitive days of singlehanded long-distance voyaging.

Moments before, had you asked me to list even a few of those events, it would have been a struggle.

Now I was reminded of the Azores and Back race of 1979, and an even greater challenge, the Royal Western and Observer singlehanded race across the Atlantic in 1980.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Which race? ... Time proved itself no romantic sailor dwelling on seafaring exploits when it came to some of the mementoes.
As I held that trophy, I could remember (perhaps only too well) the stripped out trimaran that carried me across the pond in a race I truly wouldn’t care to repeat.

A good psychiatrist

If these trophies hadn’t shown proof of the need of a good psychiatrist, the next souvenir certainly did – a trophy from the BOC Around Alone challenge that began in Newport, Rhode Island.

I entered Spirit of Pentax, the schooner I sailed alone around the world via Cape Horn only a little earlier. The yacht made it to Cape Town, just.

Lots of repairs were necessary before I could sail her back to England, which for some crazy reason that escapes me now, I sailed via Newport, Rhode Island.

That sort of lone ocean sailing must have given me an amazing sense of achievement, even though I was constantly aware of the enormous risks given the state of the yacht.

Too late!

And I certainly paid for the indulgence. Owing to the state of the yacht, I was late returning her to her owners. Too late, they ruled.

They foreclosed on my London flat, which I’d been obliged to offer as collateral even though its value was very much more than the home-built boat.

I was suddenly not just boatless, but homeless, too. Yes, some painful memories were certainly packed in with the suitcased mementoes.

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