ANY of us have read books on the old days of motoring, and thought
to ourselves “If only I’d lived then.” Visions spring up before us, of being the first man to drive a motor car from London to Edinburgh or some other distant place, or of arriving at, say, Chester, and the whole town turning out to see that wonderful vehicle that had actually come all the way from London. And, with a sigh, we flop into our silly little motor car and drive away. You can, however, still pioneer if you have a motorboat, especially an outboard motorboat. You can for instance, be the first man to drive an outboard boat from London to Berlin. The fastest official run with a ” B ” class British engine is somewhere about 20 m.p.h. for the mile course. You can now buy a British engine capable of at least 40 m.p.h. without tuning. Only one boat has ever been from London to Brussels and back, and that took about three weeks over it. Only one man has been from London to Paris by outboard, and he also took about three weeks. Why not do the double
journey ? The non-stop endurance record for an outboard motor is in the region of one month ; held by America, of course. Why not have a go at the endurance record with a tiny British lightweight, price £25? There is no lightweight record at the moment.
These are only a few of the thousands of things that can be done by an ambitious youngster without much money.
Surely a glorious holiday could be spent manufacturing a little piece of history, however small. What do you usually do for a holiday ? Go touring ? Where millions of other people have already gone touring. You go abroad, perhaps, where millions of other people have gone. Or, maybe, you just go to the seaside, where millions of people are already.
Instead of watching that silly little motorcar being loaded onto the Ostende steamer beside dozens of other silly little motorcars, wouldn’t it be more fun to be standing in front of the chief customs official telling him that you are going abroad with that little boat, whether he has ever” heard of such a thing, or not ” ? Instead of waiting for the silly motorcar to be dumped on the quay at Ostende, wouldn’t it be more fun to get hold of a customs official and tell him that you have come from England by outboard, and here
is your passport ? Just watch his face.
Just watch all the traffic stop as you roar through Ghent, and watch the lock keepers ” jump to it” when you tell them that you are creating a record. A record is an almost holy thing on the Continent.
Then again at night. Think of the thrill of tearing along a deserted canal with your lights trained on the banks, and a thousand shadows dancing around. And then, finally, your destination. Crowds of people waiting, many of them with peculiar gifts which you will treasure for years to come ; and somewhere in the background, the inevitable Englishman, and his wife who has got a bath ready.
Think about this pioneering business. it is worthy of consideration ; and if there is anything you want to know, write to us. We probably know it.
Reflections with Nigel Roebuck
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