Wing-Commander feel that he ought to go up and put in a little practice.
At Gravelines we leave the feathered squadron and make for Dunkirk. Here the sea is rather rough, and the farther we proceed the rougher it becomes, until in about half an hour it is really unpleasant. In the distance is Nienport, denoted by its line of stakes jutting out to sea. After a short battle with the swell outside, we enter the channel and make for a lock some little distance inland. Here there is a canal that goes to Ghent, Sc) we decide not to attempt to go to Ostend, as originally intended, but to enter the canals here.
C.H.4—Lots of it.
At dawn the following morning we start off along the rather weedy canal for Bruges. The canals that run through the cities give off a gas called Methane, or Marsh Gas, which has a distinctive and horrible smell, so that it is a considerable relief to be out of Bruges, and on the wide canal that leads to Ghent. In this city the smell is terrible ; in fact, it gets beyond a smell, and is almost a sound.
After some considerable delay, the second lock is passed, and we find ourselves on the River Scheldt. As usual, the tide is dead against us and the water very low, leaving sand-banks at all the bends. At Ferraonde, Miss May had to send a telegram, so we walked to the other side of the town, from where, of course, you send telegrams and meet a gentleman who has himself been to England. After a very pleasant interview, we re-embark and continue our journey as quickly as the strong adverse tide will permit. As dusk falls we find ourselves at Tamise, with another 15 miles still before us.
It seems no time, however, before the Antwerp Skyscraper appears round a bend and we steer our way carefully in and out of the hundreds of boats anchored near the city. The Royal Yacht staff quickly haul the boat out of the water and store it in the boat house, at the same time placing a launch at our disposal to convey us to an hotel.
The hospitality of the Belgian people is well known, especially in yachting circles, so that it is about mid-day before we can finally tear ourselves away from our hosts at the Royal Yacht Club. During the run to Ghent I actually manage to sleep for about an hour, thereby creating the following world’s records :-1. The first person to sleep in a speed dinghy while under weigh. 2. First person to sleep within 100 yards of an outboard motor, while running (the motor, of course). And 3. The first man ever to go to sleep in any boat while a girl is at the wheel. (All subject to official confirmation.) At dead low water we arrive at Ghent and immediately have misgivings about the lock. It looks extremely closed, somehow. There being no provision for tying up, we remove a greasy boulder from its greasy bed, place it upon our now greasy rope and proceed to climb the greasy bank. The lock,
apparently, does not open againruntil a little before midnight, when the boats are left inside until 6.30 am., at which time they must be removed.
Now, the system upon which the locks are worked in Belgium is not the creation of the lock keepers, so I feel justified in refusing Miss May’s request that I smite the lock keeper. Added to which, he is an extremely courteous gentleman, and is bigger than I am. About half a mile back is a lonely looking tug, and to this I tie the boat. I should like to talk to this tugmaster. He is an interesting fellow ; but having left Miss May near the lock keeper, it is advisable that I return at once.
Far too early the following morning we find ourselves roaring out of Ghent with every hope of reaching Dover during the day. Before half an hour has passed, however, I do something of an extremely silly nature, which results in the breaking of the magneto platform. Fortunately, we have only just passed an American coach building works, the manager of which takes a great interest in our little spot of trouble.
He hands us over to his wife, who provides us with an excellent meal and some of the finest coffee I have yet tasted. Meanwhile much feverish work must have been done in the works, for on our return we behold an extremely neat and businesslike repair, the total cost of which is five shillings, including our meals. Mid-day approaches before the magneto is retimed and the controls replaced, so that Ostend looks like being our stopping place to-night. It is : and a very gay place,
too. Fairy lights hung all over the town and bands playing on the pavements.
At sea, the following morning, there is a long and gentle swell, which is quite pleasant. It seems strange that this expanse of blue should have been so unpleasant only a few days ago. As we pass Dunkirk, the feathered squadron treat us to some more manceuvres, including the ” arrowhead “formation. It is no wonder these birds are so expert. They are always practising. Straight ahead of us a large fish rears its head out of the water and sinks back again, as though the heat were too much for it. This fish, apparently, is not alone, for suddenly a large fin appeared alongside the boat and an enormous fish dives underneath. I am beginning to under
stand how fishermen exaggerate ; for it is only recently that it has dawned upon upon me that this fish might not have been a whale after all. Perhaps it was a porpoise. At Calais we search for a passport official, but finding none, decide to have lunch instead. As there is a strong wind blowing and the visibility is bad, it is necessary to follow a steamer across the Channel, as reading a compass in a rough sea is almost impossible. Accordingly we start out behind. the ” S.S. Autocarrier,” and soon lose sight of the French coast. The sea in mid-channel is decidedly rough, and considerable manceuvring is essential to avoid slowing down. For instance, if the boat is allowed to travel down the larger waves unchecked, it will “
plunge” at the bottom, leaving you floating about in the sea. It is therefore necessary to” slip off” your speed, as you near the bottom of a wave, by spinning the wheel first to port and then to starboard. A very tiring business. At last, however, England appears ahead, and we shoot into Dover Harbour, having done the journey across the Channel in exactly one hour and a half. The best time, so far, for a 350 c.c. engine.
After refuelling we proceed to Ramsgate for the night, where it is good to note the slight reduction in charges. It now costs 1/4 per visit. Having had a pleasant journey round the North Foreland, we feel that our troubles are over, But it is not so. There is a storm at Herne Bay, making the going
(continued on page 534).
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