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A couple of years ago, while in the service of the British Government in the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria on the West Coast of Africa, it was my misfortune to be stationed at a forsaken place called Akassa, located at the mouth of the Nun River, one of the principal outlets to its vast and mysterious parent, the great Niger. Akassa was at one time the largest principal port of the then styled Oil Rivers Protectorate, and also the headquarters of the Royal Chartered Niger Company, who practically governed the country, having their own private soldiers and police. Mere was the dockyard, and as there was quite a large fleet of cargo-boats, mail and passenger launches and shallow draught gunboats, it required quite a large staff of white officials and native mechanics to keep abreast of the work repairing and keeping in order the hulls, boilers and engines.

It is now past history how the Depot was raided by the Erassmen natives of the congested tangle of swamps and creeks on both sides of the river. These natives were cannibals, and had tor some time threatened to attack the Station unless they were allowed free trade in the district. They may have had good cause to have offered these threats -they may have been in the right and the company in the wrong - anyhow, they kept their promises and attacked the depot and dockyard, early one day at daybreak. After a stubborn defense on the part of the officials and employees, which lasted for several days, the natives hastily withdrew on the appearance in the river of the Liverpool cargo tramp, which they (the natives) in their ignorance imagined to be a white man's "war canoe." The nature of the attack can be imagined, when it is realized that the loss on the company's side amounted to nearly 70 killed alone, and the attackers are estimated to have lost considerably more. This incident seemed to open the eyes of the government to their questionable policy of allowing private concerns to frame laws and run the country, and after that steps were taken to form a stronger government, and eventually the depot and dockyard, containing slipways and machine shops, were purchased from the Niger Company, and established as headquarters of the present Southern Nigeria Marine.

This, however, is straying somewhat from the writer's original idea of attempting to simply jot down a few of the trials and triumphs experienced, when endeavoring to amuse himself and a few other benighted "bollicky dabs" (as the marines were sometimes lovingly dubbed by other irreverent departments) with the greatest of all the white man's playthings, the water, be it fresh or salt. We had to be afloat somehow in our spare hours. From my earliest acquaintance with the country, I had always been struck with some of the real beautifully modeled native canoes, chopped from the solid tree with the most primitive tools, and in most cases finished inside and out by simply burning, which burning I found to be in itself quite an art. Any kind of wood seemed to satisfy them, and I have seen used mahogany, iroko, brimstone and cottonwood and various other woods quite unknown to the average white man. I had often reflected that here the ignorant native had probably been in the habit of chipping out the same old shape of canoe for probably thousands of years, while we by gradual stages of practical experience and scientific formulas had eventually arrived at the present type of overhanging spoon bows, long counters and rounded sections, as embodied to-day in our latest Shamrocks and Reliances and their numerous prototypes. The question was, how far from the poor African's dugout canoe had we eventually arrived?

A study of Molly's lines will be interesting, and no doubt help to solve the problem in the mind of the reader. These lines, with the exception of a little fairing here and there to take out the bumps, were taken directly from the hull when originally procured from the native builder. Of course, the addition of a centerboard and outside iron keel as shown were afterwards added, as we find later. Molly comes of a type known along the coast from Sierra Leone to the Congo as "accras." These hail from the Gold Coast, the principal town, from which they take their name, being Accra. When along this section of the coast these canoes can sometimes be seen for miles out at sea; in fact, they sometimes lose sight of land altogether; in several instances they have been blown miles away when caught in one of the sudden tornadoes which prevail at both the beginning and ending of the rainy seasons. These canoes carry a wonderfully arranged sail, which is stretched on half a dozen or so sprits, not unlike the ribs in an umbrella, with a loose foot and a sheet at each of the two lower corners. This sail in a good breeze fairly seems to lift them out of the water, and rolling and wallowing along in the long swells, in a smother of foam, they appear to be traveling at steamboat speed. It was always a miracle to me that they were not swamped. However, they always seemed to keep dry, and even to get to the beach through a heavy surf without shipping any considerable quantity of water. Of course, it was impossible for them with their rig to beat against the wind, especially as they have no keels, and such shallow lateral planes. Molly's ability to turn to windward with her modern plate board was put down by the native to the superiority of the white man's "Ju-ju." He (the native) is always content to account for anything which his thick brain cannot penetrate by putting it down to "Ju-ju" -otherwise, magic.

It came this wise: The Doc and I had always been put down in the mess by the other fellows as sailboat cranks, and to justify ourselves as real shellbacks we decided to have a sailboat, by hook or crook. It had al ways been one of my secret ambitions to put a sail into one of the canoes, and when the opportunity offered, to obtain a nearly new accra of exceptional breadth of beam, the deal was at once closed. She was bought on spec, by hearsay of her newness and carrying power, and the first thing to do was to despatch two paddlers to bring her the odd 17 miles through the creeks which separated her from us. She was located at a place named Big Brass, where she had been dropped by a steamer plying along the coast. She arrived next day, the men having brought her along in about five hours. After a critical survey, it was decided that she was not as good as we had hoped to find he r- too many heart shakes in her bottom, and leaking like an old basket. However, we comforted ourselves with the fact that she was new, and of a fairly good shape, and the next day work was commenced on her. Never was such weighing of arguments and threshing out of points - enough to carry out a Cup defender. The first thing was to get her thoroughly dry, which was an easy matter in the sun, with the temperature soaring above 100 in the shade at noontime. The ends of the shakes in her bottom we fastened with specially invented dogs, to keep the calking from opening her right along, and after calking we payed her well with Marine glue. First with the adze and then with the plane we took off most of the lumps, and managed to get a tolerably smooth bottom, afterwards tarring and lastly sheathing with yellow metal. The sheathing was necessary, on account of the worms in the water, which in those parts of the globe are a terrible pest. It is quite usual to see their holes in pier piles, for instance, of large enough bore to easily insert one's thumb. After this we worked on her quite three weeks before she was ready to launch, and when ready, painted and varnished, she looked fit to grace any yacht club mooring, at least so we fancied.

I was lucky enough to have some pretty good carpenter boys, and also the run of the stores for every little item, so we did not deserve much credit for turning out such a good job as she really proved to be. She had a steel centerplate and rudder, canvas decks, steam-bent elm coaming, mahogany centercase and thwarts, brass belaying pins and cleats, wire stays, cotton-rope halyards and sheets, a fine suit of sails of Union silk, especially made and sent all the way from England, and last but not least a mahogany backboard, with her name carved in sunk letters. With sheathed bottom, silver-gray painted deck and topsides, white inside, varnished coaming and thwarts topped by her cream sails, she made quite a little picture. Her spars were quite original in both shape and make. As we had nothing longer than some extra heavy pitch pine in the store, we hunted about for days to find some lighter stuff. We eventually got a large bamboo which, owing to the twists in it, seemed rather hopeless, until the idea occurred to us to try some of the poles which the natives used for poling in shallow water. These were quite long and very light, and were, I discovered, really the backbones of cocoanut leaves, stripped of their greenery. Strong, and being wonder fully straight and light, they just suited our purpose. The ends had to be banded with copper and riveted to prevent splitting. When launched, we found the boat required ballast, and so arranged for four 40-lb pigs of iron, to go two on each side of the centerboard case. This made her quite stiff. As the sails had not yet arrived, we had to try her with a homemade one of our own manufacture, the construction of which caused quite a famine in white uniform drill. When finished, it was a job to make it sit flat, but by filling it up from luff to leach with battens, in the end, it became quite present able. This did us well, and until our new sails came we fondly imagined it to be near perfection. When the real sails were at last bent, it was surprising to find that she was much faster and handier, and though the area was at least 40 feet larger, she was appreciably stiffer. We eventually had her tuned up 'to our satisfaction, and found her fast on any point of sailing, handy as a top, and capable of carrying three in crew when sailing. By taking out in a few minutes the sails, mast, ballast and centreboard, we then had room for three passengers and two paddlers, and we then used her as a paddling canoe. With her long, buoyant ends, decks fore and aft, and small cockpit, she was safe enough to cross the river bar in moderate weather, and a great improvement over her original ability. You will notice that the rudder is arranged to pull up into its case in the stern. This was to enable landing on the beach through the surf, which is always present. The idea when attempting to land was to pull up the rudder and substitute a paddle to steer with in riding in on the rollers. To ride in properly and neatly it was usual to wait for a long one and then shooting in with a rush, when the bottom grounded with a bump; it was then a jump, or rather, leap ashore, and a dash up the beach to escape the next big fellow. When the next comber came in and lifted the boat we then with the painter pulled her up quite high and dry. This required plenty of practice, and until we mastered it thoroughly generally resulted in the canoe broaching to when riding in, and rolling us all out to be washed ashore, drenched through and through, but as we generally dried out in the sun in about half an hour, we suffered very little inconvenience. We always felt safe in her when sailing, and she only capsized with us once, and that was when racing. It was a good breezy day, and we had for opponents a 32- foot service yawl, which could go like a hare on a reach, and an old 21 foot cutter belonging to the traders. It happened just after the start, when we caught a sudden puff through the trees as we were pretty well down to the river's mouth. As she laid down to it the lee ballast rolled into the bilge, and over she went. Then with her iron centerboard and rudder, ballast and two hands, she floated like a cork. With the help of the other boats we let go all the halyards, and righted her. baled out, and again set off. While hanging on to her bottom the crew were not exactly happy, as the river was noted for sharks, besides having alligators and other bad fish in plenty.

It is interesting to know that Molly is now in Scotland on the Clyde, as the Doctor became so fond of her that he packed her up and took her home with him when he went on leave. As he was a member of some of the Clyde sailing clubs he was anxious to try his dugout against some of the miniature Fifes and Watsons in his home waters.

Molly is not an ideal type by any means, but I hold the opinion that an enlargement of her, with more proportional beam and some modifications, she would prove quite an interesting proposition. Some day I hope to be able to carry out the idea, which I am sure would by no means reflect discredit on the original Molly, a West African Cottonwood dugout.

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