Pandion as African Queen

Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogard in

Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogard in “The African Queen.” (

There were rocks in the channel now, with the white water boiling around them, and Rose saw them coming up towards her with terrifying rapidity. There was need for instant decision in picking the right course, and yet Rose could not help noticing, even in that wild moment, that the water had lost its brown colour and was now a clear glassy green. She pulled the tiller over and the rocks flashed by. Lower down, the channel was almost obstructed by rocks. She saw a passage wide enough for the boat and swung the bows into it. Stretching down before her there was a long green slope of racing water. And even as the African Queen heaved up her stern to plunge down it she saw that at the lower end of the fairway a wicked black rock just protruded above the surface – it would rip the whole bottom out of the boat if they touched it. She had to keep the boat steady on her course for a fraction of a second, until the channel widened a trifle, and then fling herself on the tiller to swing her over. The boat swayed and rocked, and wriggled like a live thing as she brought the tiller back again to straighten her out. For a dreadful second it seemed as if the eddy would defeat her efforts, but the engine stuck to its work and the kick of the propeller forced the boat through the water. They shaved through the gap with inches to spare, and the bows lurched as Rose fought with the tiller and they swung into the racing eddies at the tail of the rapid. Next moment they had reached the comparative quiet of the deep, fast reach below, and Rose had time to sweep the streaming sweat from her face with the back of her left forearm.

Swiftly run the rapids of the Ulanga in the African Queen for Bogie and Hepburn in C.S. Forester’s classic novel. “The sound was terrifying to Allnutt, and so were the lurches and lunges of the boat, but he had no time to look about him.” Not nearly as exciting, I trust, will be our run, today, down Narragansett Bay from the Bristol Yacht Club in the Pandion with Capt. Mike Gerhardt. On this expedition his most unsailorly passengers, Victoria, Billy and me, will have minimal responsibility for manning (or womanning) the tiller. Below is the view from the Pandion as she heels to starboard, a maneuver about as close to sluicing down the Ulanga in the African Queen as we are likely to get. Bliss to be alive on Bay 101 summers after the events recorded (fictionally) by Forester!

The Pandion heeling to porty, or something like that. (Photo by Mike

The Pandion heeling to starboard in Narragansett Bay (Photo by Mike

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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