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People often ask why I decided to leave our world of civilisation and pleasure, to take all that time off to sail around the world on my own. As soon as I begin to answer, I'm almost always overwhelmed by a flood of reasons.

In a way, my work back then - journalism - should share the blame. Yes, Fleet Street and late night shifts on the sub's table, waiting for breaking news, saw me head down in favourite sailing stories.

I expect the little boy taken by sea on a voyage of six weeks from one hemisphere to the other, from civilisation to what seemed back then very far from it, is bound to have had been a major influence ...
Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Cape Horn under the lee ... The magnificent Southern Ocean close to the ultimate seafaring challenge, Cape Horn. Thanks to Wikipedia for this reminder of life in the Southern Ocean. By Unknown - National Library of Australia, Public Domain, Link

I had become quite crazy about sailing in early adulthood.

The sport seemed to creep up on me, and soon obliged me to invest in a Mirror dinghy, and then to be well and truly carried away by the amazing interaction of the sea and sails.

And now multi-talented Chris Roche has asked for a piece for the Cape Horner journal on what inspired my solo voyage to Cape Horn.

A serious delving

That will encourage a serious delving into memory. Perhaps I had better reread some of the book I wrote of the adventure, Loner, which Hodder and Stoughton published.

My favourite stories back in Fleet Street days - or nights, I should say - were of the sea, and of men who defied the elements and explored the oceans.

And often on the way home, waiting for an all-night bus near Blackfriars Bridge, I would gaze up at the stars and imagine what it would be like to be navigating by them in some remote latitude, in some distant ocean, just me and an engineless sailing vessel, and an albatross or two flying overhead.

A love of music helped foster the madness, and coincidentally as I put this blog together, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is playing Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes on Radio 3.

Extraordinary storm

And when, to gain experience for the desire to become a Cape Horner, I crewed on a yacht in perhaps the most infamous of the famous Fastnet Races with its extraordinary storm, this music and Debussy's La Mer, and Elgar's Sea Pictures, and the magical Calm Sea and a Prosperous Voyage by Mendelssohn, kept playing in my head, though not quite blocking out the tumult of the storm and cascading waves striking that struggling yacht.

However, as childhood experience has such a hold on we humans, I expect the little boy taken by sea from Tilbury on the Thames to New Zealand, a voyage of six weeks from one hemisphere to the other, from civilisation to what seemed back then very far from it, is bound to have had been a major influence, perhaps even more than the many sailing forebears in the ancestral tree.

Whatever caused it, I did it, and am very grateful to have survived to tell the tale. But be warned, I do try to encourage others in Sailing to Purgatory to go out and be truly amazed by our oceanic world, too.

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.