On waking in the morning I was surprised to find that I had slept all night without a stir or a dream. I felt that I was in the hands of fate, and that nothing I could do would affect the issue. But that was absurd; success would depend solely on my own efforts, on my flying, navigating, reasoning, and on my efforts in rebuilding the seaplane. I went outside, and looked at the pale flawless dawn above the edge of the palm tops. My heart ached at the thought of all the wonderful things on the island, the charm of its simple, healthy life, Auntie’s calm outlook, and her cooking, those grilled bluie fish which melted in one’s mouth when dipped in butter with a dash of salt and pepper.
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Padding along the sandy pathway, the palm crests were silhouetted against the pale-blue sky. There was something young and tenderly virginal about the still air in the wood. Heavens! What a paradise! I overtook Charlie Innes, pushing a fixed-wheel bicycle. I borrowed it and had a mad ride, twisting and turning and doing tight figures of eight round the trees. I went down a hill at full pelt, and banked steeply to slow up, because the bicycle had no brakes. I turned a complete circle, and finished up in front of the boat shed, where the waiting people looked strangely at me. I did not care; I had squeezed a little more fun out of life.
Gower drew the dinghy under the propeller, and I broke the bottle of brandy on the propeller-boss. I had ordered the bottle from Australia with the materials. The mooring-bridle was cast off, the engine started and I was in the cockpit.
There was no dashboard clock; I should miss that. And the various tables used for reducing sun-sights had all been soaked off the side of the cockpit; I should miss those too. There was no wireless transmitter, but I had a pair of homing pigeons in a basket which Frank’s uncle had given me.
A breeze was blowing away from the island to the reef, so I tried to taxi downwind to the reef. To my surprise I could not turn the seaplane. The stiff south-easterly blowing had a strong ‘weathercocking’ effect, but surely not enough to prevent a turn downwind. She would make a half turn, until broadside on, and stubbornly refuse to turn downwind. When I tried full throttle the leeward wing dipped into the sea, and threatened to capsize the seaplane. At each engine burst the new propeller cut into heavy spray. I gave up trying to turn, and set off across wind down the lagoon until in the end I reached the reef down by Goat Island. I swung into wind and opened up. As the seaplane gathered speed I felt her slew hard to starboard, and begin to trip over the float. Instantly, I throttled back. Would she recover without overturning? She settled back. But it had been a near go.
It is hard to understand why I did not realise that the starboard float was nearly full of water, and that a few more gallons would have sunk it. The fact that I had pumped all the float compartments dry, as I thought, had bemused my power to perceive this. It is amazing that the seaplane did not capsize while turning, and theoretically it was impossible to take off. I restarted the engine, headed into wind and tried once more.
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