Quay notes

The anchors are the symbols of the pilots' guild.
The port authority is in contact with all the ships sailing in or out of the har
"Service sanitaire maritime"

Pilots and rat catchers

Here we are in the centre of the harbour activity even if today‘s ships mostly moor at the huge modern terminals outside Saint-Nazaire. The big building on our right is home to the pilots’ guild. Look out for the two anchors on the façade: they are the symbol of this ancient corporation. Each ship which is more than 75 metres long is obliged to take a pilot on board because navigation in the Loire estuary is so dangerous and complicated that only experienced pilots know their way around.

port-pilote-120pix.jpgIn 19th century Saint-Nazaire, the pilots almost formed a society by themselves: the skills were handed from father to son, and weddings mostly took place between pilot families. If you visit the museum Ecomusée, you’ll find an oil painting, ca. 1900, depicting an old man, a former pilot. He proudly sports on his jacket a little silver anchor, the insignia of his profession.

Do you see the big pink building across the lock, with high aerials on the roof? That’s the port authority which is permanently in contact with all the ships sailing in or out of the harbour. Nearer to where we are standing, on our left, there is a group of buildings from the early 20th century which used to shelter two important departments of the harbour administration. The building with the high brick chimney, adjacent to the lock, used to be a pump station from 1911 up to 1993. By regularly pumping water from the outer harbour into the harbour basin it counterbalanced loss of water through evaporation and lock movements and thus kept the water level at a constant height.

The handsome building behind it used to be the sanitary service. You can still read the words on the façade: “Service sanitaire maritime“. Its task was to prevent epidemics by keeping the sanitary state of sailors and passengers under surveillance, and by regularly controlling merchandise brought by the ships. The service also would intervene aboard ships for rat and vermin extermination.