Saturday, 23 August 2008

ANOTHER HOUR IN THE LIFE OF A PHOTOGRAPHER. THERE FOR THE ASKING...


1. THE BRIDGE, driving into the hull.

2. WE ARE SAILING.

3. On deck 7, the boat makes a U-turn in the harbour.

4. ON THE BRIDGE.

5. THE BUSIEST SEA LANE IN THE WORLD, view from the bridge.

6. THE MAGIC FLOOR-WINDOW, 9 high!

7. THE MAGIC FLOOR-WINDOW, 9 high!

8. THE MAGIC FLOOR-WINDOW, 9 high!

9. THE MAGIC FLOOR-WINDOW, 9 high!

10. THE CAPTAIN and PAUL.

11. DECK 9.

12. THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE.

13. NEARING THE WHITE CLIFFS of DOVER.



When I was a very young girl, my dad, one day, as a surprise, took me on a ferry from Ostend to Dover and back in one day. Over 8 hours at sea, wow!

Hundreds of times I saw the packet ships employed to carry Post office mail packets to and from Britain, glide in and out of the harbour, people running across the beach to see them closer and wave at the strangers on board, hello… or good-bye…

I was fascinated and hooked from that first time, always outside, on deck as high as possible, fortunate to be born with ‘sea-legs’, the North Sea can be so rough!

I often got frustrated as over the years I saw the areas more and more restricted on board. Good people, who know how to behave well and in a civil manner, too often paying the price for those who don’t.

I’d look up and wonder what it must be like to navigate a big ship like this!

As I mature and get wiser (lol?), I become more and more daring, realising at last that if you do not ask, it is a definite 100% NO, if you ask, you improve your chances by 50%!!!

The worst that can happen is that the answer is no, but then at least, you have the satisfaction of having asked!

The best feeling is when you get a yes, which is very often the case!

As we boarded the ferry home last Sunday, driving in I looked up at the bridge again, photographed it (1), parked the car, ran up, and I ASKED! Was it possible to please visit the bridge?

Obviously not a question they get asked every day, a bit taken aback, the captain was contacted, could we please wait? They took our name and we were told the announcement was going to be made over the tannoy.

Off we went,(2) the vibrant flag was flapping in the wind, the pale sun glistening on the churning water, outside deck, sunset, ship neatly turning in the port(3), we took our shots... when we heard our name.

Good news! The captain was about to have his meal (what????? We were not invited at his table??? LOL), after that, no problem, they’d call again!

Right we were also hungry and thirsty, walked to one of the restaurants, queues everywhere, the chips looked and smelled delicious, mmmmmmmmm, as we were close to our turn, and we heard our name again. This was it!

After a security check we were taken into a locked down area, through lots of coded doors, along a silent corridor.

The crew accommodations are located on a separate deck and include cabins, a day room, offices, laundry, stores and crew.

Then, at the top of the highest stairs, the supreme moment, we entered the bridge!(4)

The view was stunning, you could see 360°, France, England, the sea and one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world! (5)

(The Dover Strait (in French Pas de Calais, in Dutch: Nauw van Kales) is the narrowest part of the English Channel. The shortest distance across the strait is from the South-Foreland, some 6 km (4 mi) north-east of Dover in the county of Kent, England, to Cap Gris Nez, a cape near Calais in the d├ępartement of Pas de Calais, France. Between these two points – the most popular route for cross-channel swimmers – the distance is just 33 km (20 mi)!

We were welcomed and given an interesting tour, explained the function of all the screens, radars, dials and levers. Another, exciting, world…

What caught my eye though, was a long window encased in metal frames, on both sides, in the floor.

Standing on it you saw the bow waves rushing way down, 9 decks, it was breath-taking, what a feature! I was mesmerised and kept photographing it from all angles. ( 6, 7, 8, 9)

They use them to ‘park’ the ship!

The captain arrived, holding his mug of coffee and after a brief check with the other officers, he came and introduced himself (10), he was easy going and we were told some more captivating facts, we learned a bit about what life is like for them, about the sea and about the traffic in The Channel. He was proud to tell us that if the lorries were end to end, they formed a 2 mile long queue.

The vessel is distinguished by an especially high service speed of 25 knots, a powerful maneuvering system.

Deck 3
Trailer loading space
Deck 4
Dangerous Cargo Aft &Trailer Deck
Deck 5
Private Cars
Deck 6
Buffet Restaurant, Atrium, Corporate Quarter, Children’s Playroom, Main Reception, Bar Lounge, Shop, P.C. Gaming, Open Deck, Atrium P.S, Fast Food, Children’s Playroom, Arcade Lounge, Cinema, Toilets, Elevators, Stairs
Deck 7
Truckers Restaurant, Truckers T.V. Lounge, Truckers I.T. Corner, Truckers Shower, Truckers Relax Lounge, Truckers Gaming, Gaming, Bistro, Business and VIP Reception, Business Lounge, VIP Lounge, Crew cabins, Toilets, Elevators, Stairs
Deck 8
Crew & Officer Cabins, Senior Officer Cabins, Crew Conference, Ship office, Officers Day room, Officers Mess, Crew Mess, Crew Day room
Deck 9
The wheelhouse, and Helicopter landing area. (11)

I made the observation that ferries had become so much more stable over the years thanks to the fin stabilisers which are used to provide roll reduction.

The captain gave me the title of my next image when he pointed at 'THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE'! (12)

He was also thrilled to tell us about the dolphins, who on a fine calm day, in a specific area of the Strait, would be surfing in the bow waves, fetching a free ride and visible through the magic floor-windows.

A lot of fine humour!

The sun was now lower and less playful with the clouds, Dover was very close and we you could feel the tension mount, more activity, so we felt it was time to take our leave.

A last image of the screens and info that our lives depend on, in the capable hands of these officers of the Merchant Navy.(13)

We were escorted back down; it was strange to come from this silent vast space into the crowded area of the vessel, where most passengers didn’t have a clue of the men and women above taking care of them, while they were enjoying themselves, drinking, eating, shopping or sleeping…travelling…

It was too late for us to get anything to eat or drink, we watched the docking on the outer deck and than made our way to the car, the journey was over!

THE BEST EVER! A dream come true.

We drove our 5 hours back through the night with an ear-to-ear smile!

The main lesson is, don’t be shy, ask politely, enjoy the experience of the yes, and accept the no gracefully!

THANX, M, (*_*)