Smaller Lives

Two friends and I went sailing a few weeks ago and had a wonderful time.  We put the boat in the water from the marina and then sailed with the tide for about three hours to a lovely harbor town called Brightlingsea to camp the night.  Because of the timing of the tide, we arrived late in the afternoon, as it happened, at exactly 5:00 pm.  My friend, John, who owns the boat, knew that the overnight moorings were in the middle of the harbor channel and would require a ride on the water taxi to get us to shore and the town.  But he didn’t know that the water taxi went off duty at 5:00.

The harbourmaster told us that he could give us a ride, but he made us feel that he was doing us a big favour.  And he told us that he himself went off duty at 6:00 pm.  After that, there would be no one looking after the harbor and there would have been no one to take us to shore.

This started me thinking.  Here is this nice little village, isolated from London by meandering creeks and estuaries, a wonderful place to go to get away from it all, and historically it would have been even more isolated and necessarily self-sufficient.  They would have had a harbormaster who lived in a little house by the harbor, like lighthouse keepers lived in or by their lighthouses.  They wouldn’t leave at 5 or 6 pm, because they would live where they worked.  They would always be there, even of you arrived at 2 am.  Because people who arrive at 2 am may need help more than anyone.

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