(Nov 20th to 26th)

Format: Triple

We bumped round another mooring-buoy and drifted on to the bows of a Norwegian timber-ship—I could see the great square holes on either side of the cut-water. Then we dived into a string of barges and scraped through them by the paint on our planks. It was a consolation to think that the dinghy was being reduced in value at every bump, but the question before me was when she would begin to leak. The man looked ahead into the pitchy darkness and whistled.


This is from “Brugglesmith” in Many Inventions.

The narrator has been dining with a friend on board a steamer in the Port of London. On his way home, another guest, extremely drunk, jumps into the dinghy, pushes aside the sailor who was to row them ashore, and they drift together on the tide among many moored vessels. It is the beginning of a hilarious night with his drunken companion, whom he cannot shake off until they reach ‘Brugglesmith’ – Brook Green, Hammersmith.

“The tides were the only things that moved in those seas, for the air was dead still till they began to blow, and then they would blow your hair off. Challong tended those lights every night after the junks had been so impident,—four lights in about a quarter of a mile hung up in iron skillets on the rope; and when they was alight,—and coir burns well, very like a lamp wick,—the fairway seemed more madder than anything else in the world.”


This is from “The Disturber of Traffic” in Many Inventions. A light-house keeper in the Flores Strait in the East Indies, has gone mad with only the water to see, streaking relentlessly up and down with the tides. When ships come by it is worse. To deter them he has been setting wreck buoys out in the channel. Until a survey vessel comes to take him off, the traffic is much diisturbed.

It was hard work to keep the junk near her, though Erh-Tze set everything that was by any means settable, and used his bamboo most generously. When they were nearly under her counter, and a little to her left, Jim, hidden behind a sail,would feel warm and happy all over, thinking of the thousand nautical and piloting things that he knew. When they fell more than half a mile behind, he was cold and miserable thinking of all the million things he did not know or was not quite sure of. And so they went down …


This is from “An Unqualified Pilot” in Land and Sea Tales. A young man, son of a Hugli River Pilot, and longing to become a pilot himself, has illegally agreed to guide a junk down the dangerous river for a modest fee. He avoids shoals and sand bars by following his father, who – unknowingly – is ahead in another vessel. Punishment will be severe, but he has shown his mettle, and is taken on by one of his father’s fellow-pilots.