The venue for our day out chosen, the route planned and, by agreement, without the use of the sat nav Julie and I set off to spend a day exploring Felixstowe. Julie, having recently moved to Suffolk from Redcar, wished to discover places to visit with her friends and family when they stayed with her. Felixstowe is an Edwardian town between the rivers Deben and Orwell on the North Sea coast of Suffolk. Our sightseeing started with the Spa Pavilion Theatre and Cafe under the cliffs at the southern end of a long, wide promenade, an Olympic size swimming pool with facilities for younger children and ended at the Martello Park with apparatus for all ages at the northern end. The cliffs have been restored to their former glory of landscaped gardens, a brand-new pier should be completed in August and a sandy beach were amenities making more than adequate provision for the whole family. Our last port of call was the Landguard Visitor Centre. Visitors will find a substantial fort built in the 18th century and the site of the Royal Marines first land battle. The fort is now a museum surrounded by a nature reserve and has a car park and seating well placed for viewing cargo ships and passenger ferries using the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich. I was disappointed to find that, for the first time in all my visits to the viewing area, the nearest birth adjacent to the viewing area was empty. However, the sight of a pilot boat skimming the waters towards the open sea and a tug boat following more slowly looked promising.
The cargo ship, Maersk Shams, came into view and we soon realised that we would be watching close at hand while the ship docked close to where we were sitting. The large container ship stopped its journey broadside but at some distance from the quay. All that was needed were the two tugs present to push her towards the quay. Not so. It looked as though they were going to pull her in. Even that was a wrong assumption. With one tug pulling the stern and the other pushing the bow that large vessel was turned 180 degrees until it was facing the direction that it had sailed into the dock area. Only then, after the departure of two tugs, was it pushed alongside the quay by two other tugs. Julie and I commented on the size and skill used to berth the Maersk Shams. With all the technology we have today we still need the services of a pilot who knows how to navigate a ship safely in and out of the harbour. The power of the pull and push of the tugboats was phenomenal too. There was enough strength and slack at just the right time to secure the satisfactory end result. I found the entire operation a visible expression of ourselves as we journey through life. We take a risk when we profess to know everything there is to know about our journey, to have the knowledge and insight to make good, sound decisions, the ability to find a safe place to ride out the storms or to give ourselves breathing space when the pressure is on. Have we found how to handle and recover from a battering during and after the onslaught has abated? Have we got enough grace to accept that we might be going in the wrong direction or in the process of making a huge mistake? I don’t know why the container ship was turned 180 degrees to face the other way. The pilot knew the correct procedure to follow for docking that ship. Sometimes we need to accept that someone else might know what is best for us and we would be wise to accept their direction even if they suggest an about-turn to do something different or go on a different course other than that which we have chosen. In other words, we might find that we are sadly wrong and someone else is definitely right. Who will we follow?
It had been a good day, and we set off for home quite satisfied with all we had seen and especially that we hadn’t wasted time getting lost. That is until I realised we were driving over the Orwell Bridge. We were so distracted with our chatter that we did not even see the sign directing us to the A12 northbound. We were off to the south and Midlands, not Halesworth, and we had travelled a few miles before we realised it. There are no bridges to cross on the way home, but here we were driving across the Orwell bridge. The bridge caused us to slow down, assess our situation and find a solution. The only way to correct our mistake was, at the earliest opportunity, to do an 180 degree turn around. Yes, we didn’t know everything about our journey, but Julie and I realised that one mistake could have been the one blot to spoil our day. Instead, we chose to have a good laugh and carry on as though it had never happened.