Motor Boat Boys Down the Coast; or, Through Storm and Stress to Florida
Motor Boat Boys Down the Coast; or, Through Storm and Stress to Florida
AFLOAT ON THE LOWER DELAWARE
"Toot your horn, Jimmy, and let everybody know we're off at last!"
"Sure, there's the ould Wireless coming up on us, hand over fist. It's a broth of a bhoy George Rollins is for speed!"
"Yes, he always starts out well, and with a rush; but generally manages to have his engine break down; and then even the wide old tub Comfort gets there ahead of the narrow speed boat. Now give 'em a blast, Jimmy. The coast cruise is on!"
Accordingly, Jimmy Brannigan, who served as cook and crew aboard the staunch motor boat Tramp, some twenty-three feet in length by six feet wide (the boat, not Jimmy), and with Jack Stormways as pilot, puffed out his cheeks and blew.
It was a necessary method for sounding the conch shell horn, which, if blown like a bugle, would send out a screech that could be heard a mile away.
Answering toots came from the two other crafts that had just left Philadelphia astern, and were heading down the old Delaware River, bound for Florida.
Here were six of the happiest young chaps on the face of the globe; and, indeed, how could they help it? Blessed with good health; three of them owning motor boats that had served them now for two seasons, and with stores aboard for a "bully" voyage down the Atlantic coast, taking the inland passage, what more could the heart of a real boy, with red blood in his veins, sigh for!
These six lads lived in a town "out Mississippi way." They had long ago ceased to be novices in the management of motor boats, and the great benefit they seemed to have secured from previous trips on the water, both down the wonderful Mississippi and on the Great Lakes, had convinced their fathers that they were to be trusted under any and all conditions.
Hence, when a calamity befell the high school of their native place, which all of them attended, fire destroying the main part of the building, so that there could be no session until some time after Christmas, and a brilliant scheme dawned upon the mind of Jack Stormways, they were not long in convincing those who controlled their destinies that the opportunity for a run down the Atlantic coast before winter set in, with possibly a similar cruise along the Mexican gulf to New Orleans, was too good to be lost.
And so they had come to Philadelphia, with this object in view.
As to the money part – for it takes a heap of cash to transport three motor boats a thousand miles and more by fast freight – that was the easiest part of the programme.
It happened that the treasury of the Motor Boat Club was quite flush at that particular time. On one of their former cruises, up on the Great Lakes, and in the vicinity of the Thousand Islands, these lads had been instrumental in bringing to justice a set of rogues, for whose apprehension a large reward had been offered by the authorities.
That sum, with others picked up in various ways, had been lying at interest all this while. They had intended using it for their next cruise, no matter where that might happen to take them.
Various indeed had been the suggestions made from time to time; and some of them bordering on the ridiculous. Strange to say, it was Nick Longfellow, the companion of George Rollins on the narrow beam speed boat Wireless, who gave utterance to most of these absurd propositions.
Nick was fat, and a tremendous eater. As a rule he could not be said to be at all bold by nature; and yet he declared that nothing would please him half so much as that they explore the Orinoco River in South America, and discover things never before known by white people.
Then there had been Josh Purdue, the tall and thin assistant of Herbert Dickson on the beamy and steady if slow Comfort, who wanted them to lose themselves for an entire month in the depths of the swampy country to be found along the St. Francis River.
But when Jack sprung his sensation about the long trip down the coast, and around to New Orleans, it took like wildfire, and every other idea was speedily forgotten. Preparations were hurried, the boats shipped, and later on the boys turned up in Philadelphia, where they found their craft waiting for them.
And now, here they were, at noon on this late September day, with the prows of their beloved boats turned toward the south, and plowing the waters of the Delaware, the Quaker City left far astern.
Doubtless many aboard the bustling tugs, and the vessels that came and went, smiled as they heard the merry tooting of horns exchanged between the three little power boats that were speeding along toward the wider reaches of the lower river.
They easily guessed that the boys had a good time ahead of them; but truth to tell not one could have imagined the extent of the voyage upon which the Motor Boat Club had now set out, with so confident a mien.
Taken as a whole, a merrier set of young chaps could hardly have been assembled than the six who constituted this same club. They had, of course, their faults; but by now they were so accustomed to each other's society that seldom was a discordant note heard.
Jokes abounded, tricks were sometimes played, and accepted with good nature; and without exception the boys had become very fond of each other.
For instance, there was stout roly-poly Nick, who could never tear his mind away from his favorite subject of eating, and whom thin and cadaverous Josh liked to tantalize whenever the occasion offered, because he himself, while a great cook, seldom found much appetite for his own messes, being troubled from time to time with indigestion.
Then Jimmy, who, it can easily be understood, had sprung from the rollicking Irish race, possessed a fine voice, as sweet as that of any girl; and many the time did he beguile an evening at the campfire with his songs and his clever dancing. Jimmy, by the way, happened to have a fiery thatch, a multitude of freckles, and upon occasions lapsed into the brogue of his ancestors, although he could talk as well as the others when he chose.
George had the speed mania. This had developed early in his career, for his one delight was to outstrip others in a race. Consequently, when he had his boat built, he sacrificed lots of things to have it narrow in beam, and naturally it was anything but a pleasure to be aboard the cranky craft.
His mate, Nick, had suffered in the past from this condition of affairs; and the log of former cruises would show that he had met with more than one mishap because it was necessary to perfectly balance the Wireless at all times. Poor Nick often declared that if he chanced to fail to part his hair directly in the middle, trouble was sure to follow.
The Comfort, as its name would indicate, had been fashioned on just the opposite plan, and speed was the last thing considered. They made all manner of fun of Herbert's boat, and called it such derogatory names as "The Tub" and "The Ark"; but all the same, when hurry was not an object, those aboard certainly had the best of the controversy. And then the quick-going boats always had to wait for Herb and his "life-raft," so they did not gain anything in the end.
Then about the third craft, called the Tramp, and owned by the recognized leader of the sextette, Jack Stormways. It united the good qualities of both the other boats in that it was fast and at the same time steady. While on occasion the cigar-shaped Wireless could leave Jack in the lurch, and the beamy Comfort give more elbow room, taken as a whole the Tramp was the ideal cruiser; and both the other skippers knew it away down in their secret hearts, though always ready to stand up for their own boats.
It was close on the beginning of October when they made their start from the City of Brotherly Love. For some time they would have to dodge the many vessels that were moving hither and thither before the busy port; but later in the afternoon they could expect to have clearer weather, where the river widened out, with the shores farther apart.
For once George moderated his pace, and hovered near the others. He felt so joyous over the sensation of being once more afloat, and with such a glorious voyage ahead, that he wanted to be where he could exchange remarks with his chums, and hear what they thought.
George had been doing considerable pottering with his engine lately. He claimed that he had been able to increase its speed several miles an hour.
"Wait till I get a good chance to show you, fellows," he now remarked, with a satisfied air; "why, I expect to make rings around your blooming old Tramp, Jack; and as for "The Ark," why, it'll be figure eights for hers."
"Wow! don't I just see my finish, then," wailed poor, fat Nick, shaking his head sorrowfully. "The vibration always was just fierce, and now it'll just rattle me, so I'll be only skin and bones. You'll be calling me the Living Skeleton before we ever get to Jacksonville, I bet you, boys."
"Oh, when it gets so you just can't stand it any longer, call on Josh here to change off with you, like he did once before," laughed Herbert. "Josh is built on the order of a match, and seems to be especially suited for a narrow-beam boat."
But the party mentioned did not seem to like the prospect any better than Nick, to judge from the protest he immediately put out.
"Me to stick to the Comfort, fellows. One thing sure, if you are last, you always know where you're at; and that's what I never did when on that broncho of a Wireless. Why, it threw me twice; and souse I went into the drink."
"But just think, Josh," insinuated cunning Nick, "all this shaking would be the best thing ever for that indigestion of yours. It rattles up the liver, and does a heap of good. I don't need that sort of thing, you see. Last time you bunked with George you know you improved a hundred per cent."
"Huh! mebbe," grunted Josh, "but it wasn't worth it, I tell you."
"Look at that tug bucking up against the tide, will you?" exclaimed George just then – being humiliated by all this talk about the cranky qualities of his pet, and anxious to call their attention elsewhere in order to change the subject.
"Must be a greenhorn at the wheel, or else the fellow's had more drink than he had ought to tackle," declared Nick.
"He sure does wobble a heap," admitted Jack, keeping a wary eye on the approaching craft, lest it foul his own boat, and bring sudden disaster on the cruise which had begun so auspiciously. "But perhaps that's a trick these river pilots have when heading up into an ebb tide. They know all the wrinkles of the game, I guess, and how to save themselves from wasted efforts."
"Say, that rowboat had better look out; if he makes a quick turn with the tug he's apt to run the little punkin seed down," George declared, with a note of anxiety in his voice; for he was nervous by nature, as his love for racing and making high speed would indicate.
"That pilot must be watching us all the time, wondering whatever we're heading for down the river, because the duck shooting below isn't on yet. There! he's swung about again! I hope he don't knock that rowboat galley west!" called Herbert.
"Hey! look to your starboard – you're running down a boat!" shouted Jack, dropping his wheel for three seconds in order to make a speaking trumpet with both hands.
There was a brief interval of suspense. Then came a plain crash, accompanied by loud shouts, and more or less excitement aboard the tug that was heading up river way.