Appendices to Making Waves, A History of The Royal Yacht Squadron 1815-2015
William Washburn Nutting
William Washburn Nutting, Cowes Regatta 1920
“Typhoon” lay at anchor, for the first time in 22 days, off the Squadron Castle. All about her the harbour was alive with interesting craft ranging from the royal yacht “Victoria and Albert”, over on our starboard hand, down to the fleet of international 18-footers and a heterogeneous assortment of motor craft and steam pinnaces. Alongside us lay an “M.L.” converted into a yacht and just astern, one of the famous “C.M.B.’s”, also used privately, I imagine, although you can’t be sure, for the Squadron ensign is the white one of the Royal Navy.
The most striking thing about the fleet as a whole was the great variety in the types of craft. There were new boats and old boats, trim raters and sturdy cruisers – many of them what might be called single handers. The boats as a whole reflected in admirable disregard on the part of their owners for the other fellow’s opinion. Each one seemed to reflect the personality of its owner. They indicated a genuine love for the sport rather than a competition in the matter of style and speed. Motor boats, strictly speaking, were in the minority and, except for the converted submarine chasers, there was scarcely an example of what might be termed the express cruiser. The extremely high price of gasoline, or petrol as it is called in England, of course was partially responsible for this, but I think the real explanation lies in the fact that this type of craft is not compatible with the temperament of the British yachtsman. He has in his veins more of the tradition of the sea than we have and he runs rather to the types that have been evolved through generations as the most suitable for his conditions, which, on the whole, are somewhat more severe than our own. Nowhere in England is there a body of water that would compare with Long Island Sound except possibly the Solent and the various estuaries, and while we saw little evidence of it during our stay, the winds as a general thing are stronger than our own, as might be expected on the lee side of the Atlantic.
By far the greater number of the boats about us were auxiliaries – staunch sailing craft with low auxiliary power. Many of these were twenty or thirty or even fifty years old, but all were kept up regardless of age or type. There were Falmouth Quay punts, Bristol pilot cutters, double enders of the North Sea type and some that showed the skill of Fife or Linton Hope or the late Albert Strange. There were all types of rig but the most popular were the cutter, the yawl and the ketch. The sloop except in racing craft is practically unknown and the schooner is rare.
All this we could see in the early light as we snugged down “Typhoon” preparatory to the first undisturbed sleep we had had since leaving Baddeck.
Our coming to Cowes had been like that of a modest burglar; not so our awakening several hours later. It seems that Cowes had heard of our departure from Baddeck and had been expecting us – but not so soon. We were jolted into consciousness about eight o’clock by the arrival of the customs authorities, whom we received in our pajamas. The irrepressible Casey, seizing upon the opportunity as an event demanding a certain amount of hospitality, broke out a case of Canadian rye and in consequence the formalities incident to entering our ship were brief indeed. The little informal health certificate which our friend, Doctor McAulay, had scribbled the midnight of our departure from Baddeck, was accepted and we were given the formal certificate of “pratique”. This finished, we were legitimate prey for a horde of newspaper correspondents, photographers and the movie men. With an admirable disregard for convention Baldwin insisted on being photographed in his luridly striped night gear much to the disgust of the skipper, who endeavors to maintain an air of dignity and respectability at all times.
With the assistance of the customs launch, the press contingent and our faithful friend, Harry Speed, the boatman, we found a more convenient mooring off the “Pontoon”, and if some of the assistance was a bit sketchy from over-participation in Casey’s hospitality, there were enough willing hands to make the job light and almost in less time than it takes to tell it we were securely berthed with bow and stern lines out to the big mooring buoys which are provided for this purpose. From this time on Harry Speed became our guide, philosopher and friend, and in helping with our repairs, taking on stores and looking after “Typhoon” his services were invaluable. His name is not exactly descriptive, for his virtues, while manifold, do not include quixotic or impetuous haste of action. Reliability would have been a better cognomen.
In the meantime the “Victoria and Albert” with the royal family aboard had left the harbor, but many of those who come to Cowes for Regatta Week had stayed over for the international motor boat races, and for the rest of the day and in fact for the three weeks our ship remained at Cowes there was scarcely a moment that some interested visitor was not aboard. The Royal Yacht Squadron sent us an invitation to make use of the Castle and the Royal London Y.C. made us honorary members during our visit.
A list of those who visited “Typhoon”, had one been kept, would have been most interesting. From the highest to the lowest they came and all were welcome. One of the first of our visitors was Gen. John Seeley, the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, who came aboard and welcomed us in the name of the King and expressed a regret that His Majesty had left without an opportunity to inspect our ship, in which he felt the sailor King would have been interested. The Earl of Dunraven did us the honor of coming aboard. (I say did us the honor not from any particular respect for titles but because of his record as a sailor.) All but the youngest of our yachtsmen will remember Lord Dunraven as the owner of the “Valkyries” that attempted to lift the America’s Cup.
Several days later I returned Lord Dunraven’s visit. The grand old Irishman’s yacht is a tremendous thing that was used as a hospital ship during the war – the absolute ideal according to the popular conception of what a steam yacht ought to be. But as he welcomed me aboard, he said: “You know, Nutting, I’m not satisfied with this sort of thing. I’d much rather have a tiller in my hand; I’m a sailor at heart. But this ship is comfortable and she was useful during the war.
“But I know what you want,” he continued, with remarkable insight into the innermost consciousness of a perfect stranger. “You want a good, old American cocktail.” And I did…
As I left him, I explained to Lord Dunraven than, so far as I was concerned, he could sail any old kind of a ship he chose.
Several days after our arrival a modest sort of man rowed by in a dinghy with a couple of ladies, evidently wishing to come aboard. Casey, who was standing in the companionway, smiled reassuringly, but after several unsuccessful attempts to muster courage to invite himself aboard, the retiring gentleman rowed away. We found out later that it was the Duke of Leeds. Imagine a well-known member of our most prominent yacht club rowing about Newport harbour in a 10 ft. dink! The Englishman has not forgotten how to play.
William Washburn Nutting, The Track of the Typhoon (Princeton, 1921), pages 72-7