UNOFFICIAL HIS MAKERS No. 1. “THE PIONEER.
AWAY back in the days when speed dinghies were a novelty and outboard motors were looked upon as lethal weapons, a young man with a beard stood on the quay watching a demonstration. “Of course, you won’t require all this junk,” said the salesman, indicating his mass of tools and spares. For the outboard motor was still apt to be suddenly troublesome. ” Oh,” said he of the beard, “I was rather looking forward to those,” and without further ado the customer ordered his motor to be sent to Woods of Whitstable, who were building his speed dinghy.
Two or three days later he turned up at the Whitstable boathouse and purchased 6 gallons of petrol and some oil. The boat was already in the water, and with great care the bearded man placed the petrol cans in the centre of the boat. The lady who was with him now stepped in, and the owner followed. “Up or down, for advance ? ” he enquired. ” Down ” said the boatman.
The bearded man wound the cord round the starting rim and announced that he was going to make for London ; and then, with a sad smile, he heaved on the cord and departed in a cloud of blue smoke. For some time he bounded along
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at some twenty miles per hour, stopping periodically to fill up the tank, until the scenery began to change. Suddenly a bridge loomed up and a feeling of misgiving assailed the bearded man. If this were London, his average speed would have been about 58 miles per hour, which, even to a novice, seemed a trifle high.
Enquiries proved that the town was Rochester. Once more the bearded man smiled, this time not quite so sadly, and started off the way he had come. Out again in what was apparently the open sea, he followed the dim coastline, keeping it on his left, until the miles of barren coast gave place to wharves and chimneys. Another two gallons of petrol seemed essential to his peace of mind, so the boat was tied up to one
of the few landing places on the Thames that are “Taboo.” With his arms outstretched, he treated the outraged official to the first three words of French that came to his mind and proceeded on his dignified way. The petrol purchased, he reappeared on the quay and choosing three more French words, shouted them above the din of the now thoroughly excited officials, and stepped into his dinghy.
After some more hours of continual bumping, the little craft shot past Woolwich Ferry causing a series of ” streuths ” from the staff. For it must be remembered that no speed dinghy had ever been seen “down below.”
Only a few minutes elapsed before three workmen on London bridge stood and gazed in awe at the little craft below. They were wrong, however, for the pilot had, at no time been found in the bullrushes, and he made no special claim to righteousness. Several other bridges shot by, and at last the somewhat bruised pilot and his thoroughly bruised passenger climbed out onto Westminster pier.
And that is the story of Peter Godfrey’s ride to London. The first long distance speed dinghy run ever made.