Steve never took his eyes from the course for more than a moment until they had passed Coney Island Light, for there were many craft bustling or slopping about and it really required some navigation to get through The Narrows and past Gravesend Bay without running into something. Perry suspected that Steve was working the whistle overtime, but realized that too many precautions were better than too few. It was Perry’s ambition to learn navigation so that he might ultimately be entrusted with the wheel, and to that end he stood at Steve’s elbow until, when they gained the Main Channel, Ossie’s dulcet voice was heard proclaiming, “Grub, fellows!” from below. Steve was rather too preoccupied to be very informative, but Perry did manage to imbibe some information. For instance, he learned that a sailing craft had the right of way over a power craft, something he had not known previously, and observed that a large proportion of them used that right to its limit. He got quite incensed with a small, blunt-nosed schooner which insisted on crossing the Adventurer’s course just as they were passing Fort Hamilton. Steve had to slow down rather hurriedly to avoid a collision and Perry viewed the two occupants of the schooner’s deck with a scowl as they lazed across the cruiser’s bows.
“Cheeky beggars,” he muttered.
He also learned the whistle code that morning: one blast for starboard, two for port, four short blasts for danger and three for going astern. Joe, who had applied oil to every part of the engine that he could reach, supplied the added information that a sailboat under way on the starboard tack had the right of way over anything afloat—with the possible exception of a torpedo!—and that other craft had to turn to port in passing them. Joe had wrested that bit of knowledge from a volume entitled, “Motor Boats and Boating,” which he carried in a side pocket every minute of the trip, and passed it on with evident pride. For the next few days he discovered other interesting items in that precious book and divulged them at intervals with what to Perry seemed a most offensive assumption of superiority.
“You just read that in your old book,” Perry would grumble. “Anybody could do that!” Nevertheless, he hearkened and remembered against the time when the conduct of the boat should be handed over to the hands of the efficient second mate. When Joe became insufferably informative Perry blandly asked him questions about the engine, such as, “What’s the difference, Joe, between a two-cycle and a four-cycle motor?” or “What happens when the water-jacket becomes unbuttoned?” and was delighted to find that Joe lapsed into silence until he had had time to surreptitiously consult his book.
Today, however, Joe’s ignorance of motors mattered not at all, for the engine ran sweetly and the Adventurer churned through the green water without a falter. More than once Joe might have been observed gazing down at the six cylinder-heads surmounted by their maze of wires with an expression of awe. Joe’s thoughts probably might have been put into words thus: “Yes, I see you doing it, but—but why?”