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.

When people talk about the crazy things fathers do, we usually enjoy a superior smile. Crazy dads, we might say, as we listen and nod and recount to friends the old boy's latest escapades.

Similarly, when I was being told today of the plight of a father after his shower, it seemed almost one of those laughing and shaking-of-heads situations.

Only, when I thought more seriously about it, the chuckling ended.

How simple, I realised, to be in a similar plight because like the victim of the anecdote, I live alone, too. And, as mothers warn us, accidents will happen.


The man I was learning about is well into his eighties but maintains fitness. His plight followed a perfectly normal daily routine, something most of us do every day.

He showered, then took his towel into the bedroom. Well, in this instance, towards the bedroom.

He tripped over something, he doesn’t remember what. He fell. Fortunately, the floor was carpeted.

However, that morning he had turned off the central heating for some unstated reason. He remained on the floor, naked. A leg had been injured, stopping him from getting up.

He waited a few moments for the leg to recover, only it didn’t.

He lay on the floor, no clothes, heating off. Soon he wouldn’t need to be reminded that it is winter.

Out of reach

What do you do? He yelled. No-one heard him. He looked around for his mobile phone. It was just out of reach.

A visitor was expected shortly, though how he would manage a little modesty remained a challenge.

The morning became the afternoon, the evening, the night, the next day. The friend he had expected to call at any moment, was delayed for two days.

So our hero, naked, unable to summon any assistance, lay on the floor of his very comfortable flat, albeit with the heating off.

He lay there for sixty hours, when – eventually – a family member’s key turned in the doorlock.

What do you say, how do you react when an anecdote of that sort is aired? It seems crazy and impossible. I shook my head, tut-tutting that an older man should find himself in such a state.

Could happen to anyone

But only a few seconds later, I could see that a similar accident could happen to any of us who live alone.

I looked around my compact flat. I soon found a place where my mobile phone could perch should any fate like that come my way.

And there was a chair where I could put a blanket and be able to reach it from the floor. I offered an unlikely promise to myself that I would think twice every day before showering.

The man is recovered and aparently smiles about the mishap. He says that he has learned, too, and makes a point of remembering Baden Powell’s motto from Scouting days – Be Prepared. I hope I remember.

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