The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

The inestimable Benjamin Franklin appears to have been an early innovator in the art of kite-surfing. There wasn't really a surfboard involved, but an extract from his oeuvre that appeared in the European Magazine and London Review (February 1793) reveals a lively mind and vigorous experimentation - even in the great man's childhood.
You will not be displeased if I conclude these hasty remarks by informing you, that as the ordinary method of swimming is reduced to the act of rowing with the arms and legs, and is consequently a laborious and fatiguing operation when the space of water to be crossed is considerable, there is a method in which a swimmer may pass to great distances with much facility, by means of a sail:- This discovery I fortunately made by accident, and in the following manner :

When I was a boy I amused myself one day with flying a paper kite ; and approaching the bank of a pond which was near a mile broad, the weather being very warm, I tied the string to a stake, and the kite ascended to a very considerable height above the pond, while I was swimming. In a little time, beign desirous of amusing myself with my kite, and enjoying at the same time the pleasure of swimming, I returned ; and loosing from the stake the string with the little stick which was fastened to it, I went again into the water, where I found that lying on my back and holding the stick in my hands, I was drawn along the surface of the water in a very agreeable manner. Having then engaged another boy to carry my clothes round the pond, to a place which I pointed out to him on the other side, I began to cross the pond with my kite, which carried me quite over without the least fatigue, and with the greatest pleasure imaginable. I was only obliged, occasionally to halt a little in my course, and resist its progress when it appeared that by following too quick I lowered the kite too much, by doing which occasionally I made it rise again. - I have never since that time practised this singular mode of swimming, though I think it not impossible to cross in this manner from Dover to Calais. The packet-boat, however, is still preferable.
Well, smack me dumb and punch me in the sternum. The packet boat is preferable, indeed.


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