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   Chapter 4 THE FOLLOW ME

The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 19859

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Two days before they had decided that Steve was to be captain, Joe, chief engineer, Phil, first mate, Perry, second mate, Ossie, steward, Neil, cabin boy and Han, crew. Neil and Han had naturally rebelled at being left without office or title and the omission had been laughingly remedied to their entire satisfaction. In fact, Han was quite stuck up over his official position, pointing out that it might be possible for a boat to get along without a captain or mate or even a steward, but that a crew was absolutely essential. He declared his intention of purchasing a yachting cap at the first port of call and having the inscription "Crew" worked on it in gold bullion.

When the Adventurer left her berth each member of the boat's company was at his post, or, at least, at what he surmised to be his post. Steve, of course, was at the control, Joe, with the hatches up, was watching his engine approvingly, Phil, boat-hook in hand, was on the forward deck, Perry hovered around Steve, begging to be allowed to blow the whistle, Ossie and Neil watched from opposite sides of the bridge deck and Han, in the role of crew, hitched his trousers at intervals, touched his cap when anyone so much as looked at him and said "Ay, ay, sir!" at the slightest provocation. And with all hands on duty the cruiser pointed her white bow towards The Narrows.

Steve never took his eyes from the course for more than a moment until they had passed Coney Island Light, for there were many craft bustling or slopping about and it really required some navigation to get through The Narrows and past Gravesend Bay without running into something. Perry suspected that Steve was working the whistle overtime, but realized that too many precautions were better than too few. It was Perry's ambition to learn navigation so that he might ultimately be entrusted with the wheel, and to that end he stood at Steve's elbow until, when they gained the Main Channel, Ossie's dulcet voice was heard proclaiming, "Grub, fellows!" from below. Steve was rather too preoccupied to be very informative, but Perry did manage to imbibe some information. For instance, he learned that a sailing craft had the right of way over a power craft, something he had not known previously, and observed that a large proportion of them used that right to its limit. He got quite incensed with a small, blunt-nosed schooner which insisted on crossing the Adventurer's course just as they were passing Fort Hamilton. Steve had to slow down rather hurriedly to avoid a collision and Perry viewed the two occupants of the schooner's deck with a scowl as they lazed across the cruiser's bows.

"Cheeky beggars," he muttered.

He also learned the whistle code that morning: one blast for starboard, two for port, four short blasts for danger and three for going astern. Joe, who had applied oil to every part of the engine that he could reach, supplied the added information that a sailboat under way on the starboard tack had the right of way over anything afloat-with the possible exception of a torpedo!-and that other craft had to turn to port in passing them. Joe had wrested that bit of knowledge from a volume entitled, "Motor Boats and Boating," which he carried in a side pocket every minute of the trip, and passed it on with evident pride. For the next few days he discovered other interesting items in that precious book and divulged them at intervals with what to Perry seemed a most offensive assumption of superiority.

"You just read that in your old book," Perry would grumble. "Anybody could do that!" Nevertheless, he hearkened and remembered against the time when the conduct of the boat should be handed over to the hands of the efficient second mate. When Joe became insufferably informative Perry blandly asked him questions about the engine, such as, "What's the difference, Joe, between a two-cycle and a four-cycle motor?" or "What happens when the water-jacket becomes unbuttoned?" and was delighted to find that Joe lapsed into silence until he had had time to surreptitiously consult his book.

Today, however, Joe's ignorance of motors mattered not at all, for the engine ran sweetly and the Adventurer churned through the green water without a falter. More than once Joe might have been observed gazing down at the six cylinder-heads surmounted by their maze of wires with an expression of awe. Joe's thoughts probably might have been put into words thus: "Yes, I see you doing it, but-but why?"

Steve didn't go down to the cabin for dinner, but ate it as best he could on the bridge. Neil, in his capacity of cabin-boy, arranged a folding stool beside him, and from that, at intervals between moving the wheel, blowing the whistle or anxiously scanning the course, Steve seized his food. The others descended to the main cabin and squeezed themselves about the table, which, adorned with a cloth of wonderful sheen and whiteness that bore the cruiser's former name and flag woven in the centre, held a plentiful supply of canned beans, fried bacon, potato chips, bread and butter and raspberry jam. Everything was thrillingly fine, from the pure linen tablecloth and napkins to the silverware. The plates held the same design that was worked into the napery, as did even the knives and forks and spoons. Ossie was apologetic as to the menu, although he need not have been.

"There wasn't time to do much cooking," he said, "and, besides, I haven't got the hang of things yet. I never tried to do anything on an alcohol stove before. It takes longer, seems to me. I couldn't get the oven heated until about five minutes ago, and so if those potato-chips aren't very warm-"

"I'm warm enough, if they aren't," said Neil. "How do you open these little round window things?"

"Turn the thumb-screws," advised Han. "I think everything's bully, and I'm as hungry as a bear. Pass the beans, Perry. Got any more tea out there, cook?"

"Yes, but I'm steward and not cook," replied Ossie, arising from his camp-stool and stepping into the galley. "Hand over the bread plate, someone, and I'll cut some more. Bet you it's going to cost us something for grub, fellows!"

"Well," responded Han, "I'd rather go broke that way than some others. What kind of tea is this, Ossie?"

"Ceylon. Doesn't it suit you?"

"Oh, I can worry it down, thanks. Sugar, please, Phil. I generally drink orange pekoe, though. You might lay in a few pounds of it at the next stop."

"I might," said Ossie, resuming his place at the end of the board, "and then again I might not. And the probabilities are not. If you don't want all the potatoes, Joe, you may shove them along this way."

The repast was frequently interrupted by the shrill blast of the whistle, and whenever that sounded most of the diners scrambled up to peer interestedly through the ports. In fact, so loth were they to miss anything that might be happening that they finished dinner in record time, consuming dessert, which consisted of bananas and pears, outside. Ossie alone remained below, and from the galley came the clatter of dishes and a cheerful tune as the steward cleared away and washed up. Joe smiled at Phil.

"Ossie's having the time of his life now," he said, "but wait until the novelty wears off. Then we'll hear some tall kicking about the dishwashing, or I miss my guess."

"We'll have to take turns helping him at that," said Steve. "If we don't he's likely to mutiny. There's Coney over there, fellows."

The others gathered on the port side to gaze across the water at the crowded beach and the colourful maze of buildings. "It looks jolly, doesn't it?" asked Han. "Couldn't we run in closer, Steve?"

"We could, but it would take us out of our course. I'm heading for Rockaway Point over there. We've got a good ways to go yet before we reach Fire Island." Steve had the chart opened before him and he laid a finger on the point mentioned.

"Looks like it would be more fun to duck in there," said Neil, vaguely indicating the neighbourhood of Hempstead Bay.

"Maybe it would," answered the Captain, "but there are too many islands and things to suit me. I'd rather stay outside here and slip in through Fire Island Inlet. After I get used to running this hooker I'll take her anywhere there's a heavy dew, but right now I'm all for the open sea, Neil."

Phil and Han, who had never before gazed on the marvels of Coney Island, even from a distance, were listening to Joe's tales of the delights of that entrancing resort and following his finger as he pointed out the features he recognised. "There's the coaster where I bounced up and came down on a nail," he chuckled. "It was a fine, able-bodied nail, too, and I-um-had to stay on it all the rest of the trip because the car was so crowded there wasn't room to shift."

"Smell the peanuts, fellows," murmured Perry dreamily. "Gee, I wish I had some!"

Ossie appeared on deck ten minutes later and was very indignant because he had not been informed that they were passing Coney. "I think some of you lobsters might have sung out," he mourned. "I've never seen Coney Island."

"Well, have a look," laughed Han. "That's it back there."

"Huh! Can't see anything at this distance," growled Ossie. "It's just a smear of buildings. What's the place ahead there!"

"Rockaway," answered Joe, "and that's Jamaica Bay in there. Say, there's some sea on, isn't there?"

In fact the Adventurer was now doing a good deal of plunging as she made her way through the long swells that swept around the sandy point. And she wasn't satisfied with merely kicking her head and heels up, either, for with the forward and aft motion there was considerable rocking, and as the point came abreast a shower of spray deluged the forward deck and spattered in on the bridge. At Steve's direction the windows were closed, Han performing the task with many "Ay, ay, sirs!" Joe looked anxious and present

ly sought the forward cabin, reappearing a minute later to ask all and sundry if they knew where he had put his supply of "anti-seasick stuff." No one could tell him and he again took himself off, and before he could locate the medicine the Adventurer had passed the inlet and had settled down on an even keel again. Han and Ossie spread themselves out on the forward cabin roof and the others made themselves comfortable on the seats of the bridge deck, Phil pointing out seriously and with evident satisfaction that the cushions were not only cushions but life-preservers as well. Perry was for borrowing Phil's fountain-pen and putting his name on one.

There was no longer any talk of being too warm, for the breeze was straight from the southeast and soon sent them, one after another, into the cabins for their sweaters. They passed Rockaway Beach a good three miles to port and by half-past one were off Point Lookout. Every instant held interest, for many pleasure boats were out and their white sails gleamed in the crisp sunlight. Three porpoise appeared off Short Beach and proved very companionable, for they stayed with the Adventurer for quite ten minutes. One placed himself directly in front of the boat and the others took up positions about six feet apart on the starboard bow, and for two miles or more they maintained their stations, their dusky, gleaming backs arching from the water with the regularity of clock-work. Most of the boys had never seen the fish before and were much interested. Joe called them "puffing pigs" and Perry insisted that they were dolphins, and a fervid argument followed. They finally agreed, at Phil's suggestion, to compromise and call them "porphins." Possibly the discussion bored the subjects, or maybe they were insulted by the title applied to them, for about the time Joe and Perry reached an agreement the porpoise disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived on the scene and it was minutes later before the puzzled mariners descried them heading shoreward some distance away.

They missed Ossie after that and when he was found he was stretched out on a seat in the main cabin sound asleep and snoring. Neil came back with the news that one of the "puffing pigs" had flopped aboard and was asleep below. Steve took advantage of plain sailing to instruct Joe, Phil and Perry in the handling of the wheel and controls, and each of the pupils took his turn at guiding the cruiser along the sandy coast. Fire Island Inlet was reached shortly before three and Steve took the wheel again and ran the Adventurer past Jack's Island, around the curve of Short Beach and into the waters of the Great South Bay. There was still a six-mile run to their anchorage, however, and it was nearly four when the cruiser at last crept in among the clustered craft off Bay Shore and dropped her anchor. A hundred yards away a cluster of boys on the deck of a sturdy cabin-cruiser swung their caps and sent a hail across. Steve seized the megaphone from its rack and answered.

"Follow Me, ahoy!" he shouted.

"Ahoy yourself!" was the ribald reply. "We're coming over!"

The crew of the Follow Me tumbled into a tiny dingey, cast off and were lost to sight beyond the intervening craft. Then they reappeared, their small boat so deep that the water almost spilled over the sides, Wink Wheeler struggling with a pair of ludicrously short oars and the other five laughingly urging him on.

"Throw a couple of fenders over, Han," instructed Steve, "and stand by with your boat-hook."

The Follow Me's tender crept alongside amidst noisy greetings, Perry performing excruciatingly on the whistle until pulled away, and in another moment the visitors were aboard. They were a nice-looking, upstanding lot, already well sunburned by a week afloat. Wink Wheeler was the oldest of the six, for he was eighteen. Harry Corwin, Bert Alley and Caspar Temple were seventeen and George Browne, or "Brownie," as he was called, and Tom Corwin were sixteen. First of all they had to see the boat and so the whole gathering trooped from one end to the other, exclaiming and admiring.

"The Follow Me's a regular tub compared with this palace," said Harry Corwin. "Why, there isn't anything finer than this along the South Shore, I guess!"

"Don't you call our boat names," protested "Brownie." "The Follow Me may not be as nifty as this, but she's one fine little boat, just the same. How long did it take you to come from New York, Joe?"

"Nearly four hours and a half, but we ran slow. I guess we could have done it in three hours easily if we'd tried to. This boat can do twenty at a pinch. How fast is the Follow Me?"

"She's done eighteen," answered Harry Corwin, "but fourteen's her average gait. She burns up gas like the dickens when she does any more. Yesterday we went to Freeport in fifty-seven minutes, and that's a good seventeen and a half miles. She had to hump herself, though."

After the wonders of the Adventurer had been exhausted the boys gathered on the bridge deck and Steve laid a chart on the floor and they discussed their plans. It had already been decided that they should cruise northward as far as Maine. As there was no hurry in getting there, they were to take things easy, stopping at such points as promised interest and putting into harbour at night. As it was already after four o'clock, they finally concluded to stay where they were until morning, although the Follow Me crowd were eager to be away. "Our first harbour would be Ponquogue," said Steve, "and that's a good forty-six or-seven mile run. Personally, I don't care much about messing around outside after dark. This is all new water to me. If we start in the morning we'll have plenty of time to run as far as Shelter Island, if we want to."

This was agreed to, although Perry protested that as the charts showed a life-saving station every five miles or so all down the shore it was a shame not to take a chance. "I've always wanted to be taken off a sinking ship in a breeches-buoy," he said.

"Would you mind being wrecked in the daytime?" asked Neil. "I'd love to see you in a breeches-buoy, Perry, and I couldn't if it was dark."

"Let's all go up to the hotel for dinner," suggested Wink Wheeler. "They have dandy feeds there, and maybe we can scare up some fun. Any of you fellows like to bowl?"

"First of all," said Han, "we want to see your boat, fellows. Let's go over now. I'm ready for hotel grub if the rest of you are. Can we all go, Steve, or does someone have to stay behind and look after the boat?"

"That's the crew's duty," said Phil gravely. "We'll bring you back a sandwich, Han."

"Yes, a Han-sandwich," added Perry.

When he had been toppled backward down the after cabin steps Harry Corwin said that they'd been in the habit of leaving the Follow Me unguarded for hours at a time and that so far no one had molested her, and Steve decided that it would be safe enough if they locked the cabins. So presently the Adventurer's tender was lifted off the chocks and put overboard and after hasty toilets the boys piled into it and the two dingeys, each loaded to the limit, set off for the Follow Me. The latter was a thirty-four foot craft, with a hunting cabin that reached almost to the stern, leaving a cockpit scarcely large enough to swing a cat in; although, as Perry remarked, it wasn't likely anyone would want to swing a cat there. The cabin was surprisingly roomy and held four berths, while a fifth bunk was placed forward of the tiny galley. The latter was intended for the crew but at present it was the quarters of "Brownie." The sixth member of the ship's company occupied at night a mattress placed on the floor and philosophically explained that sleeping there had the advantage of security; there was no chance to roll out of bed in rough weather. The engine compartment lay between cabin and cockpit and held a six-cylinder engine. Steering was done from the cockpit, under shelter of an awning, but the engine control was below. The Follow Me was four years old and had seen much service, but she had been newly painted, varnished and overhauled and looked like a thoroughly comfortable and seaworthy boat. She was copper painted below the water-line and black above, with a gilt line and her name in gilt on bows and stern. Compared to the Adventurer she was a modest enough craft, but her six mariners asked nothing better and secretly believed that in rough weather she would put the bigger boat to shame. Captain Corwin levied on the slender supply of ginger-ale and sarsaparilla contained in the tiny ice-chest and after that they again set forth, this time for the nearest landing.

They "did" the town exhaustively and at six-thirty descended on the hotel thirteen strong and demanded to be placed together at one table. It is doubtful if the hotel management made much money on the thirteen dinners served to the boys, for everyone of them ate as though he hadn't seen food for days. Somewhere around eight or half-past they dragged themselves back to the boats and paddled out to the Adventurer, where, since the evening was decidedly chilly, they thronged the after cabin and flowed out into the cockpit. Perry started up his talking machine and played his dozen records over a number of times, and everyone talked at once-except some who sang-and, in the words of the country newspapers, "a pleasant time was had by all." And at ten the Follow Me's crew got back into their dingey and went off into the darkness of a starlight night, rather noisy still in a sleepy way, and, presumably, reached their destination. At least, no more was heard of them that night. On the Adventurer berths were pulled out or let down and a quarter of an hour after the departure of the visitors not a sound was to be heard save the lapping of the water against the hull and the peaceful breathing of seven healthily tired boys.

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