Felixstowe, a town on the Suffolk coast, is one of our family’s favourite seaside resorts. It also happens to be the busiest container port in the UK. The resort boasts a swimming pool, pier, leisure centre, wide prom, landscaped gardens and a long sandy beach. The southern aspect of the town has a simple water sports area and, at the north, a landscaped viewing point that overlooks Felixstowe cargo port. My children, and now my eldest daughter’s children, enjoy happy visits to the seaside there, no matter what the weather.
There was great excitement a few weeks ago when we met up with my daughter and her youngest little girl at the viewing point, to find a large container ship boasting my granddaughter’s name berthed not far from the café. Much to this little girl’s excitement this big ship left her berth and set sail with the help of tugboats. There were numerous questions, such as ‘Why are the boats (i.e. tugboats) so small?’, ‘Where is the ship going?’ and ‘Why is it turning around?’ An enquiring little girl seemed satisfied with some simple but knowledgeable answers. Photographs were taken for daddy and her elder sister and cousins, no doubt accompanied by long detailed explanations of her lovely day out with her mummy and grandparents.
With hindsight, I could have gone into the viewing point and read up about the ship, its tonnage, where it had come from, the cargo it had offloaded, the new cargo and its destination. That would definitely have increased my knowledge of cargo vessels. However, what impressed me the most was the knowledge and skill of those who sailed the ship, loaded and offloaded its cargo and manoeuvred it to and away from its berth and through the river channel and out to sea. It was fascinating to hear my granddaughter try and work out how small tugboats could push and pull this huge ship in the right direction and how the pilot knew where to go, although he couldn’t see the bottom of the sea bed because of the muddy-coloured sea water. It would have been a total disaster if the captain of the ship hadn’t used the port facilities offered to facilitate the safe berthing and departure of his ship. Those who loaded and unloaded the cargo would have had different skills to those who manoeuvred the ship and the crew who were responsible for restocking and preparing the ship to sail. Everyone is needed, no matter how mundane or how much expertise was needed for the job. There is a togetherness represented here which, when present, can bring a deeper appreciation of life in general.