Ever drive past a farm countryside and notice cows all clustered together in one part of the field? Or see them all lying down facing the same direction and wondered what it meant?
I’ve heard it said often enough that an experienced farmer in tune with his land and animals can tell the coming weather based on these things – the behaviour of the animals, where they’re gathered, which way they’re facing as they brace for whatever weather their enhanced senses can pick up.
I snapped this picture because we were trying to distract Hawkeye. He got upset by the strong wind and was clinging to me instead of watching the boats. I had an armful of toddler so the photo wasn’t my best, and the lamp post got in the way on the left because I was sitting on a bench and couldn’t move easily. But I was excited to try and watch the dragon boat race kick off as I hadn’t ever actually watched one before.
The wind was pretty fierce yesterday and the dragon boats had to race into a stiff headwind (the rower in me winced in sympathy). Going in the opposite direction were the mechanised Duck (DUKWS) from the Viking Splash Tours. And behind it all is the evidence of the renewed construction boom.
I honestly didn’t pay the skyline any attention when we were out there watching the boats. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photo much later in the evening that I noticed the serendipitous alignment of everything in the photo – the dragon boats facing upwind, the Duck boat facing downwind, the red race launch, the the far shore of the canal, the construction lines of the giant modern office buildings rising up in the background, and, of course, the construction cranes.
This is why I started thinking of the cows. I looked at the photo and marveled at how I hadn’t noticed that on the day. Was this an accident? It was a Sunday, so there was no work happening on any of those construction sites. And it’s a series of separate sites, not a single construction zone. Do they all agree on which direction to point the cranes? Is there an industry regulation on this? Is this one of those mysterious arcane things only engineers are privy to?
I actually looked it up. Modern construction cranes, when not in use, are often left to “weathervane” i.e. they’re left in a free-swinging mode that lets them rotate with the wind. The jib, with the heavy concrete counterweight, will point in the direction of the wind, and the long arm of the crane will point into the wind.
So there you go. Something you may not have known before now.
Oh, and the race? Yeah, I’ve no idea who won. I know in retrospect it was the Dublin Hong Kong Dragon Boat Regatta, run in partnership with the Plurabelle Paddlers (who I believe are the pink boat on the far side of the photo). The finish line was on the far side of the canal and there was no way for us to tell how it ended. But the beginning is, for me, just as exciting, if not more so, because as a rower (and as someone who has once tried Dragon Boating) I know exactly how hard it is to take a boat from stand still to top speed over a short distance. It was brutal in rowing shells, but a dragon boat on its own can weigh up to 720lb (327kg), and with a full team inside it can weigh almost 2 tons! With no rigger to help you with leverage, and no sliding seat to maximise power from your legs, your arm strength is both what keeps the oar up and propels the boat forward, though the correct movement also includes pivoting from the hip and bracing with your opposite leg. Something I did not get the hang of on my one and only attempt.