I Motor Sport 800 MILES IN 8 DAYS.
BEING AN ACCOUNT OF A HURRIED VISIT TO ANTWERP AND BACK BY SPEED DINGHY.
AN outboard trip to the Continent is well worth while if only to meet the greatest number of really friendly people in the shortest possible time.
Everyone, for instance, should meet the P.L.A. pierman whose hospitality we enjoyed on the first night of our little adventure. His philosophic attitude towards everything and everybody would be a lesson to many of us. And then there is Mrs. Cone, of the Hotel de Paris, Dover, who knows more about wants of motor boatists and channel swimmers than anyone alive ; Captain Brady, of the “s. s. Ford,” who always advises you not to go, but who makes it as safe;as possible when you do ; Captains Larking and Hall, from whom you invariably learn much about the sea ; and the signal man on the end of the Dover Admiralty pier, whose face I have never seen, but whose first words usually are : “”es, lovely day, flat as a pancake— What! Outboard motor boat ! Oh, no, you can’t go to-day ! Deuce of a sea running.” These are only a few of the people you should get to know. Hundreds of others you would also meet.
The Start. The starter as now fitted to the
The impulse starter as now Watermota completely eliminates that look of doubtful hope that usually spreads over the visage of an outboardist when wielding the cord, for a first pull start is a very important thing when a lot of people are looking on.
Quickly the Show Boat drops astern, and I note that we are going due North, according to the compass. On rounding the first bend we still appear to be going due North, and with great regret remove the headlamp which has been reposing against the compass. The compass now registers U.S.E., which is a good thing.
The Governor’s Breakfast. When at last dusk gives place to com
plete darkness, a halt is called at Woolwich Arsenal Pies and we enquire about an Hotel. There are none, but the pierman says that we can stay on his pier if we can find sufficient provisions. So we wend our
way through the gunpowder to the main road where the public houses are occasionally separated by a shop, closed.
Th( proprietors of one of the pubs kindly consents to sell me her husband’s breakfast and we return to the pier with a supply of bacon and eggs. A more pleasant companion than this pierman would be hard to find, so that dawn comes in what appears to be no time.
Once under way with Miss May at the wheel I am relieved to find that she can manage a boat in an extremely creditable fashion, thereby eliminating that mental navigation which is the.cause of so much friction.
A beautifully calm sea makes the going very pleasant, and it is not long before we are passing the seaside resorts of, firstly, Herne Bay, and then Margate. The dangerous North Foreland has now to be registered, and as the tide is fairly low, it is necessary to go out nearly to the Long Nose Buoy to avoid the risk of running aground. Away on the starboard bow, or just over to the right, is Ramsgate, with its expensive harbour. It costs two shillings a visit there. There is no need to stop, however, so we alter our course slightly and start out across Pegwell Bay making for Deal pier. Here a gentleman removes his pipe from the port side of his mouth and inserts it in the starboard, a form of salute common to fishermen.
Once round the South Foreland and in sight of Dover the sea is quite rough, and a strong wind makes the spray most uncomfortable. Suddenly remembering that I have not warned Miss May about this, I shoot a glance in her direction, thereby allowing the water that has collected round my neck to trickle gently down below. Many people believe that water that has found its way in can find its way out, and I believe it can ; but it never does. It settles in a pool around your seat and swishes gently to and fro. The more we bump and crash, however, the more Miss May seems to enjoy herself so that the calm waters of Dover Harbour must mean little to her.
There on the quay stands Mrs. Cone, almost completely surrounded by Bill, and a little to one side a reporter. This gentleman’s already melancholy state is not improved by the news that we have not been swamped, have not crashed into a steamer, and do not feel particularly ill. What, he means to say, has he got to write about ? After a delay of one and a half days, caused by the high wind, we stagger out of Dover under a heavy load of fuel. We have also decided to take with us all the oil we shall use on the run to Antwerp and back. This oil has given such excellent results that we do not care to change even for a 100 miles or so. Our maximum speed now being about 12 m.p.h., the steamers, behind which we left the harbour, soon leave us far behind, and we traverse the rather ” bumpy ” sea with a feeling of intense loneliness.
Resisting the temptation to steer for the first part of the French coast that becomes visible, we keep on our course and are soon rewarded with a view of Calais, dead ahead of us.
As Calais slips by, about 3 miles on our starboard side, I notice a team of little black birds who are indulging in a little formation flying. These creatures drill with an accuracy that would make a