Sea Scouts up-Channel
Sea Scouts up-Channel
50 Old Bailey, LONDON
17 Stanhope Street, Glasgow
BLACKIE & SON (INDIA) LIMITED
Warwick House, Fort Street, Bombay
BLACKIE & SON (CANADA) LIMITED
1118 Bay Street, Toronto
Sea Scouts up-Channel
PERCY F. WESTERMANAuthor of "The Third Officer", "The Salving of the Fusi Yama"
"Sea Scouts All", &c.
BLACKIE & SON LIMITEDLONDON AND GLASGOW
Printed in Great Britain by
Blackie & Son, Limited, Glasgow
|II.||Sea Scouts to the Rescue|
|III.||An Involuntary Guest|
|IV.||The Gratitude of Mr. Collinson|
|V.||A Gift worth Having|
|VI.||Visiting Sea Scouts|
|VII.||The Start of the Great Adventure|
|IX.||Adrift in West Bay|
|X.||The Fouled Propeller|
|XI.||The Semaphore Message|
|XII.||A Misunderstanding Cleared Up|
|XIV.||The Missing Patrol Leader|
|XV.||How Desmond Fared|
|XVI.||The Outboard Motor|
|XVII.||Advantages and Disadvantages of Cement|
|XVIII.||Good Luck in Disguise|
|XXI.||The Tables Turned|
|XXII.||A Narrow Shave|
|XXIII.||The Rebound of the Joke|
|XXIV.||Refusing a Tow|
|"Want a tow into Weymouth?" Frontispiece|
|"All clear!" he announced, exhausted and triumphant|
|Both men tumbled on the cabin-top|
|"Drop that and give in at once!"|
Sea Scouts up-Channel
"It's going to be a dirty night," remarked Mr. Graham, Scoutmaster ofthe 9th Southend-on-Sea Sea Scouts. "Not very promising for the firstday of our holidays."
"You are right, sir," agreed Desmond, the Patrol Leader. "We are safeenough here; and, after all, the weather isn't everything. We'rejolly lucky to be afloat."
"Although we've nothing much to go to sea in," added Pat Hayes. "Thispart of the coast is very different from Southend, isn't it, sir?"
"I can hardly believe we're miles from home," chimed in Ted Coles,the tenderfoot or "greenhorn" of the troop. "My word, that shakesthe old boat up!" he exclaimed, as a vicious blast of wind bore downupon the side of the lofty superstructure of their temporary floatinghome.
It was a stroke of good luck, or perhaps good management on the partof Scoutmaster Graham, that five members of the 9th Southend SeaScouts found themselves in the Isle of Wight.
They had that afternoon "taken over" the guardship of the 6th WoottonBridge Sea Scouts, the latter having accepted an invitation to takepart in a "jamboree" on the other side of the Channel at a placecalled St. Valerie-en-Caux.
Before the Wootton Bridge lads left, their Scoutmaster, Mr. Tweedie,wrote to Mr. Graham—they had been brother officers in the R.N.V.R.in that distant period "when there had been a war on"—offering tolend him the Wootton Bridge Sea Scouts' guardship for the latter endof July and the greater part of the month of August.
Scoutmaster Graham put the proposition before the lads. They simplyjumped at it. A holiday in the Isle of Wight was far different fromknocking around the Essex and Suffolk creeks in their open whaler—anold tub that could not be trusted to go anywhere under canvas unlessthe wind was abaft the beam—and rowing, although good exercise, isapt to become a tedious business, especially when it comes topropelling an unwieldy eighteen-foot ex-Service boat for miles andmiles.
So the offer was gladly accepted. Mr. Graham, Frank Bedford, PatHayes, and Ted Coles had taken train to Portsmouth; Patrol LeaderDavid Desmond and Second Jock Findlay had done the ninety odd milesjourney on their trusty push-bikes. Taking two days over thedistance, they were awaiting the train-party at Portsmouth HarbourStation when the Scoutmaster and his three young companions arrivedwith their somewhat generous amount of luggage.
It was a matter for mutual regret that some members of the troop wereunable to be present. The fact remained that out of three patrolsonly five Sea Scouts were able to accept the Wootton Bridge lads'invitation, although it was just possible that others might do solater on.
From Portsmouth the elated Sea Scouts crossed by steamer to Ryde,their one disappointment being that they were unable to have aglimpse of Nelson's Victory, but the staunch old three-decker wasin dry dock, undergoing a thorough overhauling to repair the ravagesof Father Time.
At Ryde they commenced their four-mile tramp to Wootton Bridge, theirgear being piled upon a trek-cart lent them by some obligingbrother-Scouts.
It was late in the afternoon when the Sea Scouts had their first viewof Wootton Creek, and rather unfortunately it was nearly low water.From the top of the hill they could see a very narrow streammeandering between banks of mud. On either side the ground rosesteeply, the left bank being thickly wooded. Away to their right theSea Scouts could discern the creek winding towards the open waters ofSpithead, while in the distance the flat coast of Hampshire cut theskyline.
"Where's the guardship, sir?" asked Hayes.
"There she is, unless I'm greatly mistaken," replied the Scoutmaster,pointing to a long, low, black hull with a white superstructure.
"She's not very big," remarked Ted Coles, the greenhorn, dubiously."And the creek's little larger than a ditch."
"Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth," said Desmond. "Wait tillwe're aboard. Things look a bit deceptive from a height. Come on, youfellows, it's down hill all the rest of the way."
At length the Sea Scouts and their trek-cart came to a halt outsidean old mill. Here the main road from Ryde to Newport, the "capital"of the Isle of Wight, crosses the creek by means of a brick bridge.Close to it is the village that takes its name from the bridge.
"Now to find out Mr. Johnson who has the key of the guardship,"announced the Scoutmaster; but, before he could take further steps inthe matter, an old, grey-bearded man, wearing a blue reefer suit anda peaked cap, came out of a cottage near by.
"You'rn the gen'l'man what's a friend to Mr. Tweedie's, I take it,sir?" he inquired. "Johnson's my name, master mariner for nigh onthirty-five year. I've got the keys, sir. Here they be, an' a list ofwhere everything be to. If you'rn wantin' any help, come to Cap'nAlbert Johnson, being me."
"Thanks awfully, Captain," replied the Scoutmaster. "I supposethere's a dinghy to get off to the guardship with?"
"Ay, ay, there's a nice li'l boat belonging to our Sea Scouts. She'malongside yon steps, but there ain't enough water just now, seein' as'ow the tide's out."
"In that case we must wait," rejoined Mr. Graham. "How long will itbe before the dinghy is afloat?" Captain Johnson gave a glance at themud-banks.
"Matter of an hour, mebbe an hour an' a half," he replied. "Say seveno'clock an' you'll be on the safe side."
"In that case," said Mr. Graham cheerfully, "we may as well get in afew provisions. Unship that gear, Desmond. The trek-cart will come inhandy for the grub. Hayes, you'd better mount guard over our gear. Isuppose there's fresh water aboard, Captain Johnson?"
"Ay, ay, sir," was the reply, "the lads filled up her tank just aforethey went 'foreign'. There'll be a couple o' hundred gallon in a irontank amidships. You'll find the tap in the galley, but don't use thepump. That be for salt water."
Leaving Hayes to contemplate the narrow trickle of water between themud-flats, the Scoutmaster and the rest of the Sea Scouts set off ontheir task of buying provisions. By the time they returned with theirwell-laden trek-cart the tide had commenced to flow, and the waterwas already lapping the keel of the dinghy.
Ten minutes later the little craft was pushed off through the softmud and taken alongside the bridge. The stores and baggage werepassed aboard, the trek-cart put into a shed at the mill, and the SeaScouts set off for their temporary floating home.
"She's a whopping craft, after all!" exclaimed Ted Coles, as thedinghy drew near the guardship.
Viewed from without, the guardship turned out to be an old Thamesbarge, about eighty feet over all and from fifteen to eighteen feetbeam. The whole of her two holds had been built upon, with adouble-decked structure extending the whole width of the ship exceptfor about fifteen feet amidships, where the deck-houses came to theouter edge of the original coamings, thus leaving two shelteredportions of the deck. Aft, the upper deck terminated twelve feetfor'ard of the lower deck, the roof of the latter boasting of a largeteak skylight. There were several large glass windows, while a shortlowermast and light topmast gave a finishing touch to the WoottonBridge Sea Scouts' guardship.
Making the dinghy fast fore and aft to a couple of booms, the SeaScouts followed their Scoutmaster on deck, and waited withill-concealed eagerness while he unlocked the door leading to theupper deck.
They found themselves in what was styled the chartroom, a space aboutsix feet in length and occupying the extreme width of the ship. In itwere a compass, a flashing signal lamp, a signal locker with acomplete set of flags, hand semaphore flags, a couple of telescopes,and on the bulkhead two large charts of Spithead and the Solent.
On each side were windows commanding a view abeam and ahead, whileright aft another window, long and narrow, gave an uninterrupted viewof the entrance to the creek and the sea beyond.
Leading out of the chartroom was a wide, doorless opening,communicating with the club-room and two sleeping-cabins on the upperdeck; while a steep brass-treaded ladder with brass hand-rails gaveaccess below.
On the lower deck were the dining-saloon, kitchen, and two moresleeping-cabins, with nearly seven feet headroom throughout, whileright for'ard was a low-roofed storeroom. Abaft the dining-saloon,and gained by means of a small sliding door, was the bathroom, whichin the days when the guardship was a sea-going Thames barge hadserved as the skipper's cabin. "Jolly fine, isn't it, sir!" exclaimedDesmond. "And did the Wootton Bridge Sea Scouts do all the work ofconverting her?"
"Every bit, I think," replied Mr. Graham. "I remember Mr. Tweediewriting to me about it. They cemented the floors and the spacebetween the sides and the lining with ferro-concrete—nearly fortytons of it—before they commenced the woodwork. Altogether it tookthem seven months to finish the work."
"It must have cost them something," observed Frank Bedford.
"About a couple of hundred pounds," replied the Scoutmaster. "Theyraised every penny of it by themselves—concerts and that sort ofthing—without cadging a single halfpenny. Well, come on. How aboutgrub? Then we'll go to general quarters, stow gear, and sling ourhammocks."
The first meal on board was a great success, if Jock Findlay'sinitial blunder was not taken into consideration. Jock was told offas cook for the day, and, apparently not having heard CaptainJohnson's instructions, had made the cocoa with boiling sea-water.
It was getting on for nine o'clock when the conversation related inthe beginning of this chapter took place. Already the sun had dippedbehind the tree-clad hills on the western side of the creek. Away tothe nor'ard the sky was overcast, while an on-shore breeze blew withsteadily increasing strength up the tidal estuary. The evening wascold—decidedly chilly for July—while occasional scuds of rainpresaged a dirty night.
Presently Patrol Leader Desmond, who had been examining the entranceto the creek with one of the telescopes,