Thursday, August 23, 2018

Slapped wrists for the author

 Tut tut! Sailing to Purgatory's author has been found guilty of a letting a grammatical error slip through and appear in the adventure story of his 8,000-mile swallowing-the-anchor voyage.
To end my years at sea as a professional, as a certificated Department of Trade commercial yachtsman, I decided that the very last voyage should be through old sailing grounds.
That was the Caribbean, the North and South Atlantic Oceans, down to the Roaring Forties and through the notorious Southern Ocean.
Image of part of a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
I sailed the most of the 8,000-mile voyage alone. However, there were some notable landfalls, which are described in Sailing to Purgatory.
Retired school teacher Lesley Skeet has been reading the story at her home in New Zealand and, as she wrote to tell me, lingered over a report of one of the many strange happenings on the voyage.
I was sailing on a long passage from the Caribbean towards the Azores in the mid-Atlantic. I had been steering for some time, keeping a good eye out for shipping, when …

I’m scanning the horizon from time to time, as ever. A high wave rises at the bow and washes along the length of the boat. It’s followed quickly by another.
A body surfaces. It’s beside me in an instant. The water turns him slightly. I’m staring into a young face, no more than a metre away. He is dead, Chinese, Singaporean perhaps. He floats on his back, eyes open. He wears a survival suit. He returns my open-mouth stare.
I say that had I blinked at the wrong moment, he would have ‘passed by’.
The word ‘passed’ in that context is fine, Miss Skeet says. But on the next page, looking back at the coincidence of the sighting, I wrote ‘The surprise of it, the sight of it dashing passed, really stunned me.’

Well done, Miss Skeet

Miss Skeet writes, ‘It should be past, shouldn’t it, not passed.’
Well done, Miss Skeet. Absolutely right. Perhaps I should have referred to Grammar-monster dot com. During the many revisions, I questioned and rewrote much of the story.
Perhaps because the sighting of the body was so strange, and in its own way so disturbing, somehow I didn't concentrate on the way I was reporting the incident. Slapped wrists, PR, and many thanks to you, Miss Skeet, for pointing it out. … Continues on the blogs for my ocean travel book, Sailing to Purgatory, at


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