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Books: Flynn’s Yarn

3 minute read

BEAM ENDS—Errol Flynn—Longmans, Green ($2).

Seven years ago Cinemactor Errol Flynn (Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade) whose private life last made news when he and his wife, Cinemactress Lili Damita, announced last December that they would goon a second honeymoon instead of getting a divorce, was known to the barroom clientele of Sydney, Australia, as a happy-go-lucky, well-set-up young Irishman from the New Guinea gold fields who had lately celebrated himself into a sanatorium, had not been on his uppers long before his abandoned claim was bought for $5,000. One morning he woke up to find that somewhere along his way he had paid out most of it for a 44-ft., 50-year-old harbor yacht called the Sirocco. Remorseful, but liking her low, raking lines, he decided to sail her 3,000 miles to New Guinea. All for it were three footloose companions. Setting a distinct highwater mark in personable, salty entertainment, Beam Ends is Errol Flynn’s yarn of the voyage that followed.

Navigating was “The Dook,” wiry, chaste, non-practicing bridge engineer, whose sober tinkering with the sextant gave their position anywhere from mid-ocean to mid-Australia. Real navigator, says Author Flynn, was Providence. They all took turns at the hand pump, which had to be kept going most of the time. Figuring a couple of months for the trip, they took seven, with many a layover for repairs and beachcombing. Once they made $50 catching kingfish; poker games showed a profit; they poached a sheep, paid for it later out of the fee collected on an opium-runner’s errand. Diversions included their own brand of Rabelaisian horseplay, drinking bouts, a couple of carnivals, acquaintance with many an odd character.

Loitering through the beautiful coral islands of the Great Barrier Reef, they put in one day at a small island inhabited by the Wilson family, who lived on shell fishing. Oldest Daughter Lucy was breathlessly beautiful, listened wide-eyed and adoring to Author Flynn’s descriptions of the magical outside world. But when she took him to a secluded pool and jumped in trustingly with nothing on, he decided that innocence disarms and went to say goodby. Lucy did not see why she could not go with him, swam out to the boat after them, scratched and bit while they trussed her up, took her ashore.

In the Coral Sea they hit bad weather. The Sirocco leaked like a screen, was ready to go to pieces until they let it run with the gale. After three days of it, more dead than alive, they reached New Guinea, found a native pilot and set out for Port Moresby. Two days away, in a sudden cyclone, the Sirocco was smashed to splinters on a reef, “kindly, lovable old Dook” drowned.

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