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!