Sheffield businessman’s life was a voyage of discovery

Peter Woolass, using a sextant for navigation while sailing on his yacht
Peter Woolass, using a sextant for navigation while sailing on his yacht
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Peter Woolass enjoyed a long, successful, and above all adventurous life.

The former boss of Record Ridgway Tools, who has died aged 95, also fulfilled a long-held ambition by crossing the Atlantic Ocean single-handedly, and wrote books chronicling the voyage and other aspects of sailing.

Peter, who lived for most of his life on Pingle Road, Millhouses, was born in Darnall in 1920 to parents Jess and Stanley as the second of three sons. He joined the Army aged 19 at the start of World War Two, and was promoted to the rank of Captain, fighting in Italy and North Africa.

After returning to Sheffield he joined Record Tools, then based on Bernard Road in Hyde Park, and as an accountant rose to the position of joint managing director. He was known for his approachable nature, happy to speak to staff on the shop floor.

The firm - known for the quality of its vices and clamps - became Record Ridgway in 1972 after a merger.

In 1948 he married Ruby McCash, and together they had two daughters, Ann and Patty. As a family they spent weekends at Rotherham Sailing Club, where Peter found a love of the pastime that led him to build his own boat and eventually buy a yacht suitable for crossing the Atlantic.

After Patty died tragically aged 13 in 1966, Peter found solace on the sea, and made his transatlantic journey three years later. At the time he was the 23rd man in history to complete the trip.

He learned how to navigate by the stars, and the yacht he chose - a 25ft Vertue - was the largest that could be handled solo. His book Stelda, George and I documented the ocean crossing.

Skilled in engineering and model building, Peter once constructed a prototype of the Menai Bridge in Wales. In retirement he restored furniture, completing pieces for Chatsworth House, and nurtured his passion for cars and motorbikes.

Ruby died in 2004. Peter married his second wife Gladys Shelton in 2005, and gained a second family, including her daughter Lynne and son Floyd. He moved near to Pocklington, East Yorkshire, and lived independently after Gladys died four years ago. Following a stroke, he spent the last year of his life at a care home close to York.