THE SPORT AFLOAT
PARIS THIS TIME
THIS is the third occasion on which I have found myself at Westminster Pier preparing for my departure by outboard for a cross-Channel trip. Big Ben booms out, and I set off with shouts and waves of farewell from a group of friends. The river is beautifully smooth and there is no driftwood about. A grimy tug toots upon its siren in salute. But
is it a salute ? No. It is merely turning round. The drab scene at Woolwich is momentarily brightened by the sun which, upon second thoughts, goes in again. At Gravesend the water becomes rather rough, and my thoughts turn to the lunch
that I might have partaken in smooth water. A veal-and-ham pie seems to make a good start and I wonder, vaguely, whether I prefer the taste of Shell or Duckhams oil. Off the Isle of Sheppey the sea becomes really rough, necessitating a decrease in speed. As I progress, the sea becomes worse and even unpleasant. Before long, however, Margate comes into sight with a line of enormous breakers right across its harbour. There is nothing for it but a charge, which means getting very wet. Open comes the throttle, and we promptly take off. Bump after bump is followed by crash upon crash and here we
are. The Harbour master wishes me “Good afternoon,” and some apologetic reference to a sixpence comes forth.
RICHARD COLE CHRONICLES HIS EXPERIENCES ON HIS LONDON-PARIS TRIP.
After two days of fruitless waiting for weather at Margate, my patience becomes exhausted and out we go into a very unpleasant sea. With the engine just ticking over, the long nose buoy draws nearer and nearer. Right off the North Foreland the sea is really dangerous due to the tide being against the wind. As the foreland. gradually drops astern, the sea becomes a little less severe, but is still rough. For some time I have had a feeling that there is something round the gear housing, so at Ramsgate we enter the harbour and remove a small piece of straw. The harbour master demands 2s. for the use of the harbour, and points with great pride to the fact that this is the most expensive harbour in England.
Once under weigh again the sea is not so bad, and half throttle can be used. A word about throttles. For a motor to be practical for this sort of thing, it must be capable of propelling the boat at a maximum speed of anything from 16-25 m.p.h. It must also be able to throttle down to a speed of about 2-4 miles per hour for any amount of time without oiling plugs or stopping for any other reason. I wonder how many motors will do this.
Off Deal the sea again becomes rough and again the motor is called upon to run. dead slow for half an hour or so.
About a mile ahead is Dover, forming a background to a horrible sight. For about half a mile the sea is a mass of leaping foam. It is certainly the most terrifying piece of water I have ever seen. The pillar-like waves are about six to eight feet high with a space of about three feet between them. It is, of course, impossible to go straight through them, so you have to tack backwards and forwards, gradually getting nearer your objective. About forty-five minutes of this brings us to within one hundred yards of the eastern. arm. I shall not forget this run in a hurry.
Two more runs up and down, and I enter the harbour and switch off to ascertain the extent of the damage. The boat builders have every reason to be proud of themselves, for the boat has only shipped about a gallon of water, all of which was spray, blown on board by the wind.
Once in the inner harbour, I notice a familiar figure on the keyside. This is the man who tells you what course to steer when going across the Channel, but as he gives you the same course for Ostend as. he does for Calais and Boulogne, it is advisable to consult a second authority, or you may find yourself a point or two out. I also notice that he is wearing a scarf of mine. I often wondered where that had got to.
Once inside the Hotel de Paris I am handed a letter from a lady outboard enthusiast who says that she wishes she were seated at the wheel of ” Imp” ” steering N.N.E. for Calais.”
There would be a tendency in some quarters to condemn this piece of navi-, gation as unsound, so I discuss the matter with some of the cross-Channel captains. They agree that this course might be suitable for an outboard motor boat, but they, themselves, had always steered in a south easterly direction, due probably, to the fact that their fathers had done so before them. They are, they state, always willing to learn. In fact, one of them says that he had actually seen a Attie man in an outboard, steering a similar course for Calais some years ago.
At last a reasonably calm morning dawns and I decide that, as the weather report is still unfavourable, it would be safer to follow a steamer. This means a run to Folkestone as there are no cargo boats leaving Dover at this time of year. The S. S. Maidstone appears to be the boat in commission at the moment, and I.ask the captain if he minds my following him. He doesn’t, so in due course we depart for Boulogne. A beautifully calm sea makes the run very pleasant. Halfthrottle is sufficient to keep up with the Maidstone which does about 12 knots. I note he is steering S.S.W., in case I should lose him. The Varne lightship passes on the right, and I notice that the sea is getting a little choppy. The wind is also rising. Cape Gris Nez at last appears a little to the left of the Cape Gris Nez I had been imagining for sonic half hour past. The tide must now be against the wind, judging by the ” white horses” visible everywhere. Once inside the alleged shelter of the cape the sea becomes really rough, and I find it difficult to keep up with the steamer. Gradually, the Maidstone draws ahead, leaving me in some short, steep waves. Once again dead slow. I wonder why the wind is always on the carburettor side. Twice the engine nearly stops through water washing over the intake. It begins to dawn upon me that I am not making headway, as the tide is running at some four knots.
A tense moment.
Finally a large wave finds its way right into the motor, and she is silent. Immediately waves wash over the stern and the position becomes serious. Much as it goes against the grain I wave to the Maidstone. Somebody on board gleefully waves back and she proceeds on her way. This won’t do. I hoist my helmet on the end of an oar, and, of course, away go the goggles. The Maidstone turns round, so I may concentrate upon keeping afloat. To turn her head into the wind requires some considerable strength as the bow is higher than the stern, thereby catching the wind, which blowing the tops off the waves, causes a terrifying hiss. The Maidstone is manoeuvred alongside with incredible skill and in a very short space of time. I am ordered out of the boat, a steel hawser hurtles through the
atmosphere, and away we go. I notice that Boulogne is only about two miles distant. A pity to get into trouble so near a port. On entering the harbour I once again board the now half swamped ” Imp ” and am left to my own devices. Thirty minutes sees everything in order, and the motor singing out its hymn of hate.
At last the wind veers round to an off shore direction, and once again the engine is called upon to run dead slow, while the choppy water round the breakwater is negotiated. Slowly I creep past the spot where I was wrecked some two years ago. A horrible looking place. The sea now being a little calmer the throttle comes open, and the villages go by in quick succession. A ridge of sand banks ahead necessitate a long detour through rough water, after which more villages pass. At the corner of a bay ahead I can see a town which I think must be St. Valery. There is no sign of a lock here, however, so on I go. Another town passes, also sans lock or harbour. The time is now 2.30 and St. Valery is long overdue. Possibly the tide has turned. Presently in the distance I can see a lighthouse on the end of a breakwater. St. Valery at last I After a meal I feel more like tackling customs officials, so round to the customs house I go. Passport examined, luggage searched, but they do not seem interested in the Permis de Navigation or the tryptique. Tactfully I ask if I might now be allowed to enter the canal. Canal ? They are very sorry but the nearest canal is at St. Valery. A ghastly moment, this. Where then, am I ? At Le Treport, apparently, which means that I have done 25 kilometres too much. Very depresing ; and the customs house rockel with the sound of laughter.
A local pilot, however, has some interesting facts to relate about St. Valery. It is, apparently, unapproachable except at high water. The channel is buoyed, and the entrance is in the middle of the last mass of sand banks that I had passed. Also, anyone missing the channel, and getting stuck on the sand banks would stay there for twelve hours,as he would be surrounded by quicksands. This means fiddling about in the dark at 5 a.m. the next morning, and getting away by 6 a.m.
Wearily, I heave upon the starting cord and bang gently across the harbour. A young lady clad in a dressing gown, runs to the quay and waves. Have I misjudged this town ? The slight chop just outside the harbour gradually develops into a gentle .swell, and a most impressive dawn breaks, closely followed by the sun. Glorious. I have never seen anything like it. ‘rhe motor, roaring over at nearly full throttle, shoots the boat over the ripples with that gentle clatter so beloved by all those who outboard. I have strict instructions to keep red buoys to the right and black ones to the left. As usual the first buoy I come across is green. However, further on the buoys are as stated. The water about half a mile ahead looks like a sheet of ice. Great
Snakes ! it is ice ! With the motor running dead slow, the boat breaks it up and on we go. It dawns upon me, how7 ever, that if I proceed at this speed, I shall be left stranded in .about an hour which means I shall not refloat until after dark. A lightning examination of the now and sides reveals no signs of damage, so open conies the throttle. With earsplitting shrieks and cracks the ice breaks up, throwing hundreds of little splinters many feet into the air. An impressive sight.
After some two miles, the solid ice gives way to little icebergs which can easily be negotiated. A little to port I notice some fishing boats outside a small town—and a lock. So this is St. Valery. Vith an air of finality I tie up and approach a local resident, asking him what time the lock will be open. He seems a little offended at my calling it a lock, and points out that it is the gate of a new irrigation scheme. He is of the opinion that the town I require is St: Valery.
Among the ice.
Back again to the iceberg region where
left the channel, and once more the buoys shoot by in an. orderly procession. Now and again the motor slows as the propellor touches the sand, but as the water goes down, the channel becomes clear, and all is plain motor boating, The real St. Valery is a welcome sight. There ahead is the enormous double gated lock, surrounded by little buildings rather reminiscent of Holland, one of which is held in place by a customs official. Presenting my papers, I ask him when I may be able to pass the lock, and am told that these are neap tides and, therefore, unsuitable for this lock. However (brightening), I may be able to get through next Tuesday. With difficulty I retain my balance… Why, da.mmit, that is nearly a week. An interview with the lock keeper seems desirable, so I wend my way to his house. Five minutes pass, and I emerge with the assurance that I may go through the next morning at 8. The lock at St. Valery is large and almost English in its inefficiency. Eventually, however, the gates open. At the end of the long straight canal that leads to Abbeville, a gentleman in a small boat signals his desire for conversation, during the course of which he mentions a .12 kilometre per hour speed limit. Humbly I thump into the nearby lock, and -await the arrival of the lock keeper. There are 48 of these locks to pass, but I am glad to note that they are very efficient and rapid. Lock after lock is negotiated and such villages as Ling and Picquiguy arc passed before reaching Amiens. From here onwards there are still traces of the War, and dotted along the route are the graves of some millions of Englishmen. They are simple and infinitely impressive. Among those whose identity is known, their average age seems to he between 19 and 22 The village of Corbie passes and darkness begins to fall. A lock looms up in the half light and with it a building which 1 find is a cafe. The proprietress remarks that she knew immediately I
came in, which country I belonged to by the Union Jack upon the life saving suit ; and asks how things are in America.
On approaching the boat, I am dismayed to find ice everywhere : solid. No running through it this time. However, there comes the syncopated thump that denotes a semi-diesel, and round the bend sails a barge.
There is now a channel, so off I go, with great care, however.
Once past the village of Bray, the ice gradually disperses, and once more the boat skims over the water instead of going through it. From Peronne the locks start again in earnest, and it is long after dark when I arrive at St. Simon, where the canalised river Somme joins the Canal de St. Quentin. Here there is a first class cafe-hotel that has a radio which will receive anything but British stations. The London they had been listening to for the past four years turned out to be Oslo. As I have been warned of the amount of traffic on this canal, 1 turn out long before it is light to avoid the crush. Threequarters of the barges in France seem to have turned out early for the same reason. Delay seems inevitable. This, however, is France, a country where the noisiest
man has right of way, so I roar into the locks right under the noses of the barges. This usually causes the lock keeper to leave his control house, and utter words which I store in my memory for future use.
Chauny passes with its inevitable lock, and I begin to enjoy myself. The arrival of an outboard motor boat is something of an event to these towns, and at the first sound of approach they decant their inhabitants along the quayside. As the roar of the Watermota gradually dwindles to a staccato stutter I notice the lock keepers feverishly preparing their locks. I suppose they think that if they don’t open them quickly anything might happen.
At Janville the canal terminates, and the route lies along the river Oise. A glorious wide river with long straights and gentle bends. Oh, for a hydroplane and a 1,000 c.c. motor ! What a waterway for a summer holiday, winding in and out along a glorious valley, dotted here and there with picturesque little towns.
Soon I realise that evening approaches, and I must find a village for the night. Verberie passes, and I make all possible speed for Pt. St. Maxene. Twenty-five minutes and I am there, giving an average speed of 25 kilometres per hour. As I drink my coffee which is the French
for breakfast, I allow my thoughts to dwelltupon a long and uninterrupted sleep. To-night, if all goes well. This new impulse starter is a blessing when you are sleepy. So simple has been the departure that Meriel passes before I am fully conscious. A glance at the map reveals that there are only two more towns to pass before reaching the Seine.
The town of Pontoise is, apparently, a pleasure resort. Several riverside cafés with swimming equipment and so forth adorn the banks, whilst on the right I notice another outboard, a hard chine boat, F,vinrude powered.
At last the town of Conflans appears with its mass of traffic, and just ahead— the Seine. To the right is the famous nudists’ colony at Villennes and to the left is Paris. Nearer and nearer draws the great city, its proximity indicated by an occasional tram. Two locks are passed. and then there is the Eiffel Tower.
The race course at Auteuil passes on the left, and I keep a look out for the Concorde Bridge where I am supposed to stop. I am a little early, and the Concorde water bus station is deserted. Those people who are feeding the swans continue to feed, and those who are fishing continue to fish. Peace, perfect peace. Coming down the slope is a friend who has been patiently awaiting my arrival. So this is Paris.—R. COLE.
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