On my first visit to Port Cartier in Canada in May 1974 it took roughly five hours to load the Irish Wasa with 16,000 tons of iron ore. That was it. We arrived and sailed on the same day. Our route back across the Atlantic Ocean to Turku in Finland took us via the north of Scotland and through the notorious Pentland Firth with its unpredictable weather and challenging tidal races.

Port Cartier: Not much has changed since I was there! Source:https://www.vesseltracker.com/en/Ports/Port%20Cartier/gallery/1089422

Had there been the opportunity of shore leave in Port Cartier there was nowhere to go. The main purpose of Port Cartier was the export of Canadian iron ore, the port being an artificial facility constructed in 1958 by the Québec Cartier Mining Company. There was a single storey office building used by the port authority and the pilots, and that was more or less it. Port Cartier served its purpose, but it wasn’t a fun place to visit. Although there is a small town a short distance from the port, I have never sailed with anyone who has been there.

The point of Port Cartier was not to provide a run ashore for seafarers. The point of Port Cartier was to provide an ultra-efficient means of loading ships with iron ore. One problem for the Irish Wasa was the speed at which water ballast could be pumped out. Because Port Cartier could load the ship faster than the pumps could empty our ballast tanks the deballasting process began twenty-four hours before we arrived off the port. Deballasting occupied all of the cadets’ time while we were loading, the point being to ensure that not a thimble full of water remained in our ballast tanks thereby reducing the amount of cargo we could load.

Knowing the point of something makes a difference. I don’t remember being terribly upset about not getting a run ashore in Port Cartier, because the point of Port Cartier’s existence was stunningly obvious. Less obvious is the point of the church these days. It seems that the point of the early church that exploded into life almost 2,000 years ago has been largely forgotten by the church of today. When and why did buildings and programmes become so important? What happened to building disciples and making disciples?

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NLT)