How far have we advanced with all our amazing technologies? We send people into space with our engineering capabilities. We carry supercomputers in our pockets so we can connect to friends and family across the world. Humans are awesome.
The other week we travelled from the UK to France on the elegant Baie de Seine ferry. We had a cabin as it was an over-night crossing and so when Le Havre came in to view Tom and I went up on deck to watch as the ship was piloted into harbour. We watched as a tractor drove along a beach. Behind the town there were blue lights flashing as a fire engine made its way down the hill toward the seafront, its siren muted by the distance.
As we drew closer we saw more and more human activity. It was half past seven and Le Havre was just waking up, just coming to life on a busy Friday morning. We saw a building site on the quayside with excavators and lorries lined up ready for work. Below us were the longshoremen, bobbing in their tiny boat, dwarfed by the ferry.
These men had to climb ladders on podiums set into the bed of the harbour. At the top of these podiums there were the claw-like devices which hold the ropes that tether the great beasts of the sea that carry us between nations.
I wondered how many men fall off in any given year? This docking was relatively calm with only a light rain, but I have sailed in vicious conditions before now. I guess this probably looks like child’s play compared to what we have seen the pilots do when they transfer from their small boat to the larger ferry, sometimes in quite heavy seas. Tom and I waved and the men waved back, cheerful in the cold morning air.
A smaller rope was thrown out to the longshoremen and they caught it up and hauled it in. It was attached to a larger spliced rope that took both men to lift up from the water to the top of their podium. They threw the loop over the metal claw, pulled a lever and the claw closed over the rope. Then there was a whine and a metallic clang and the rope began to rise into the air until it was taught and began to pull the ship in toward the podium.
We are travelling via Portsmouth to Caen this weekend. UK school holidays do not match the French so Maya’s brother and sister will still be out every day regardless. But at the end of the day it will just be wonderful to be together again…