THE BUMPING OF THE JOURNALISTS

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56

WATER. HE BUM ING OF THE JOURNALISTS. A GLORIOUS, BUT UNEVEN RIDE IN THE THAMES

ELL, it’s got to be got to Newhaven if it’s humanly possible,” said the boss. “But remember it’s not your boat, so don’t get it in a mess.” Below us, in the little dock at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, lay a long blue hydrophane with a glittering ‘Johnson 32’ on the transome. A mechanic was gloating over the remote control that he had just fitted. “Here’s the customer’s

the customer’s address,” added the boss, “and don’t forget to put in at a port where there is a railway, if it gets too rough. Must you take that guitar ? ” In exactly twenty-seven minutes, the hum of the Johnson died down and the piennaster at Westminster helped one Cecil Wood into the boat. “No cushion ? ” grumbled Cecil, handing me a role that, I fear, had come into contact with our supply

• of Duckham’s N.P.5.

Two, or three minutes elapsed before the Tower Bridge shot by and we started on our ” blind ” through the shipping.

The intermittant roar of the John-son as the exhaust came out of the water over the various washes, was a delight to the car. The leaping motion of the boat, too, caused a sensation that was unique.

“Oh, for a cushion,” moaned Cecil, raising his body from the seat. Cecil isn’t used to this. Swerving slightly, we passed the Woolwich ferry, and the water gradually became more bumpy. Through the clouds of spray, Ford’s Works could be distinguished on the

left, while ahead of us loomed Gravesend.

Here we donned our life jackets, a somewhat pessimistic routine, but an important one. The water now was quite rough and we became more and more wet.

“Keep the tap open,” roared Cecil, forgetting his anatomy. “You haven’t frightened me yet.”

The tide, however, was against the wind, and as we approached the open sea the waves became unpleasant. Suddenly, the horizon disappeared, and what seemed like a ton of water crashed down upon us. We had run straight through a wave. ” Hadehaven, is the nearest shelter,” said Cecil in answer to my unspoken query.

Slowly we entered the haven and made fast to someone else’s buoy.

Early in the morning the tide was in the opposite direction but the wind was just as strong. Away we went across the estuary and were soon in the shelter of the Medway. The Medway Yacht Club at Rochester showed considerable interest in the boat and plied us with much beer. They seem to think that anyone who rides in these lively little craft must be in need of a stimulant. They still think so. (In case you should be calling there.)

After lunch we started off up the Medway for Maidstone. The river is narrow and rather shallow at half tide, so that considerable enjoyment could be gained by trying to take the bends flat out. The penalty of failure is, of course, a sheared pin. We sheared a pin.

I have always been of the opinion that a man’s thoughts while he is knocking out pieces of broken shear pin with the wrong end of the pliers would be of interest to others, and was on the point of some lengthy discourse when a voice bade me watch out for my future welfare. A swan, that we had disturbed some minutes ago, was bearing down upon us with an evil look in his eye.

“You were driving,” said Cecil pointedly. I took the paddle.

The difference in the size of a peaceful swan, and a swan in a bad temper is amazing. A mass of white feathers leapt out of the water and attempted to mount the engine. The war was on. After much branclish’ng of the paddle the swan retired, and watched the remainder of the proceedings from a safe distance.

With a new shear pin in position we soon reached the lock, which is just this side of Maidstone.

“We ain’t supposed to let speed boats through,” announced the master of ceremonies.

” Speed boats ? ” queried Cecil.

Speed boat ? “I echoed blankly. “We haven’t seen any speed boats.”

“Oh,” said the M.C., “then that ain’t a speed boat ? “

Cecil and I roared with laughter. Why, the idea was ridiculous. We proceeded through the lock.

The railway authorities at Maidstone are a sympathetic body. They thought that they could make a better show of the delivery than we could. We let ’em.