Next I tried streaming my drogue, like a canvas bucket with a hole in it, from the outer strut of the opposite wing, but it had no effect whatever. I seemed well and truly stuck. A motorboat approached, which the Governor had sent to find out what was wrong. I asked for a tow, and threw out a line, but they missed it four times, the man at the wheel going full speed ahead each time he drew near the rope. When they did pick it up, they made it fast to their bow instead of the stern, and proceeded to cross ahead of the seaplane at full speed. A pull from the side on a seaplane only makes it glide forwards or backwards, and as soon as the rope from the floats to the bow of the motor-boat took the strain, the motor-boat was pulled right round like a toy, and made straight for the seaplane’s tail at full speed. I shouted at them to cast off the rope, but either they were taken by surprise, or else expected the seaplane to follow the motor-boat, because they held on, and I waited for them to crash into the tail. Then someone acted on the motorboat and cast off the rope, and the boat just missed us. At last the tow rope was secured properly to the stern of the boat, and the seaplane was towed safely across the bay.
I walked up to the Governor’s house. The heat seemed to let me through reluctantly, and everything seemed dreamlike. The Governor ordered a meal to be produced while I had a bath in a room with the floor joists open to let the water fall through 20 feet to the ground below.
Australia Vacation Travel Gallery Photos
Australia Vacation Travel
I felt better after something to eat, and motored round the harbour with the Governor to find somewhere to beach the seaplane. When we returned to the wharf to fetch the plane, I had an impulse to open up one of the float compartments. The sea was dead smooth, and I opened up the front hatch without dropping a single screw in the water. The bilge was perfectly dry. I set to work on the second opening of the large middle compartment; when I saw what was inside I just stayed on one knee, staring into it, until the Governor called out, ‘What is it?’ This middle compartment, about 6-foot long, was half full of water; there must have been 50 gallons in it, equal to nearly half the weight of the whole seaplane. At last I knew what had been the cause of all my near disasters, the seaplane’s nearly capsizing at Lord Howe Island, and trouble in taking off at Whitsunday Passage, Rockhampton, Merauke, Amboina, Ternate, Ormoc. To think of my pumping the bilge day after day and always finding it dry, while the main float compartment itself was flooded! I could see where the metal bilge pipe had been rammed by the keel and where it had kinked and cracked at the top, so that I always sucked air instead of water through the crack. In a sort of apathy I pumped until dark, and lowered the level considerably. When I left off for the night I kept on muttering, ‘Well, I’m damned,’ till the Governor began to look sideways at me. To think of all my disgust and despair and raging at the antics of the seaplane on the water, and the difficulty of getting it into the air: now that I had discovered it, it was too late – the propeller was ruined. I seemed likely to be stuck in Masbate for months, a horrible prospect.
During the night I wondered if I could mend that propeller in some way. The difficulty was that I knew nothing about propeller construction, and I had been told that an unbalanced propeller would vibrate the engine clean out of the fuselage. Then I had an inspiration: why not try mending it with a piece of petrol tin? With that I went to sleep so soundly that I must have fed all the mosquitoes of Masbate. The net I had was too small to cover both my head and my feet. I had covered my head to keep the buzz away, and left my feet under the sheet. The mosquitoes must have bitten through this, because in the morning my flesh felt solid with bites.
After pumping the float dry, simple enough when I knew where to pump, I started work on removing the propeller. To do this I had to stand on the tip of one float and lean away from the seaplane, holding on to the propeller-boss with one hand, to keep myself from falling while I unscrewed the bolts with the other. Each bolt was held by a lock washer, and there were about a dozen bolts. I soon lost one spanner, and when a Filipino dived for it, he could not find it. I tied a second one to my wrist, and I tied a handkerchief round my forehead to keep the sweat out of my eyes. There was no breeze, and with the sun striking up from the water as well as down from above, it was like working before an open furnace.