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.

It's probably good to be awakened to reality, for there I was reminiscing on the many great moments of my singlehanded voyage round the world, some of which are to be told in Yachting World in August.

My good brother Chris has brought me, as it were, back to earth with some photos he took of Spirit of Pentax limping into Otago Harbour after going aground on Stewart Island in a foggy calm, to the south of New Zealand.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Toe the line ... Pentax is towed to the repair jetty in Otago Harbour after a stranding in fog on Stewart Island. Photo - Christopher Rodgers

Chris, a canon with the church, lives in Southland and with the aid of radio hams kept a very thoughtful watch as I sailed the damaged schooner towards Dunedin, accompanied as ever in that part of the planet by albatrosses and occasional sea lions.

And there was the good fellow with my parents, and his camera, on board a support vessel in Dunedin's huge Otago Harbour.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Arrival ... Sails down as the rescue launch approaches Pentax at the entrance to Otago Harbour. Photo - Christopher Rodgers

It's only today that I am seeing some of the shots he took.

Beer and skittles

They remind me instantly - for the first time for a very long time - that the voyage to round Cape Horn was not exactly all beer and skittles.

The shots reveal that Spirit of Pentax was no state-of-the-art superyacht.

Even if the charter price might have had you thinking so, she was actually a home-built, almost jerry-built, canoe-shaped happening with some very temperamental ways. Thankfully Pentax cameras took care of the charter price.

I was invited to take part with her in the BOC Around Alone race. The yacht rolled in a storm off South Africa. The owners had expected to find sponsorship for the event, but were not successful. A payment was late and they claimed my flat even though, after extensive repairs, I returned the yacht to them.

So, yes, it hadn't been all plain sailing. But it was an extraordinary voyage, the schooner didn't kill me, and a well-received book, Loner, records some of the magic. I don't dwell on the hellish price because extraordinary experience shouldn't be measured that way, should it.

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