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Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Part Three: Asia

Wednesday, November 7

Karachi to Bombay What rotten luck! The tale of mechanical woe continues. On Sunday we said goodbyes to our kind hosts and, with a good weather report, stowed our luggage aboard the ship and prepared to take off for Cocanada. Because the floats had been submerged so much during the storm of the last few days, water had leaked through the hand-hole covers into each compartment, and we pumped this out first, and fueled to 60-60-38-28. It seemed as though it was to be our day at last, and I taxied into the open harbor and gave it the gun. There was a good breeze and I expected the ship to take off in less than a minute, but to our great astonishment and disappointment, I couldn't even rock it to the step. 35 miles an hour was the most that it would turn up, although both magnetos were running sweetly. We tried it in various parts of the harbor and finally took to pumping out gasoline, 20 gallons the first time, and 15 gallons the second, but to no avail . . . It was too confounding, and we taxied the several miles back to the dockyard, almost willing to accept the tow offered by the police boat, which had come out to see what was the matter. This time there could be no two ways about it; the plane must be taken up on dry land and a complete engine check and float conditioning job performed. I put it up to Henry Born, and soon we were on our way to the swimming club to interview Mr. Clive Rich, who is the Port Trust Office in charge of the great Bombay dock system. He was most sympathetic and offered to take us in through the large Alexandra locks, where a six ton crane would raise poor Asulinak out of the water and deposit her on shore so that we might give whatever treatment she needed. I think two American faces never showed relief more clearly than at this offer. We put up for the night at the Taj Mahal Hotel, out of pure embarrassment over our prolonged visit with the naval officers.

Early Monday morning Asulinak was taken to the locks. The battery was so low that it would not start the engine and a tow was required, until passing the huge gates. Lines were thrown down from the walls and the dwarfish airplane was gently pulled along by hand into the ship basin. In another ten minutes the crane-handler had her ashore. One look at the bottom of the floats and the story was clear. A thick green slime covered the surface, the result of eight days in warm tropical water. Bombay is noted, it seems, for the rapid fouling of bottoms, and even the big liners lose one or two knots of speed after a sojourn in the harbor here. On thinking back, I remember that we have had difficult take offs ever since Rome, when we painted the floats with the black bitumastic substance to prevent corrosion. Treatment: "Clean off all the coatings with turpentine." Easy to say, but it took six coolies, 15 yards of muslin, 7 gallons of turpentine, 5 gallons aircraft gasoline, a dozen "urgers", taxicab lamps, a dozen flashlight batteries and a lot of rupees to got all that awful stuff off in one day and to paint the floats with an aluminum finish. We went to bed satisfied in soul and body that we had done a hard day's work, for with this, Bob and I had done a 20 hour check on the engine.

We would start on Tuesday, but with due precaution I ran the motor up before the plane was dropped into the water and, believe it or not, the right magneto promptly cut out. I was thoroughly disgusted, and had to turn again to poor Born, who succeeded in pursuading the Tata Company to send in their best mechanic (E. McWade) so that we could set about dismantling the whole ignition system and locate the trouble, the source of which has really escaped us all the way through. The magneto was completely disassembled and tested, but showed no defects and, although the ship's wiring still tested without shorts, we began to pull it out for inspection. We found finally that the ground wire leading from the magneto to the switch had a break in the insulation, and that, when it was shaken, a short circuit to the shielding braid occurred. This seemed to explain why on so many occasions the engine would run properly at take off, and after vibration had set in for a time would break down. This afternoon it was reassembled, and it tested up perfectly, so that we hurriedly put the plane into the water and (after going out through the locks like the "Empress of Britain"!) went up for a short test run. The ship literally jumped off the water on its shiny floats, and I felt so good about it that I circled back and forth over the city to let everyone know that the old tub was flying again, and then took McWade down past his girl's house, only he didn't seem to know quite where she lived!

This evening several of the officers came to dinner with us at the Taj, and afterward we took them on for a final game of bowls and drubbed them thoroughly. Tomorrow we are really and truly setting out across India.

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