Meeting Henry Again
Last year on my third day after leaving Miami sailing alone on Mystique into the Bahamian waters, I anchored at Cambridge Cay, the southern part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Flying my quarantine flag to notify any passing officials I had yet to clear Customs or Immigration, Henry, a park ranger, and his cohort stopped by my catamaran to check on me and my destination. I told him I was on my way to George Town. He informed me that I should have checked in at the nearest Port of Entry - either Bimini or Nassau. I explained to him I had sailed the previous year through the night and had checked in at George Town without any questions or conflict. I also added that I was sailing alone again this year and that night time arrivals, strong tidal current made both of those precarious places for a soloist. I told him for safety reasons I had opted for the Exumas Port of Entry destination. He again repeated I should have entered their country at the nearest Port of Entry. I asked him if he had ever taken a catamaran into either of those places. After he shook his head, I assured him I would check into at George Town on Great Exuma as soon as I arrived. I also assured him I would not set foot on Bahamas soil until that time.
The next day Henry appeared in his marine park craft around midday and still found me at the same spot. This time less cordial, he threatened me with a $10,000 fine and a towing to Nassau if I did not get moving immediately. I indicated to him that I was on my way. I asked him to to come closer so we could have a civil conversation, but he kept his distance and insisted I get a move on. What a grump! Not the same Henry I met the previous day.
When Steven and I came ashore at Warderick Wells to check in and pay for our mooring, I recognized Henry behind the desk. He had also been the one of the 9:00 radio transmission that we made reservation for two days at the park headquarters. It wasn't until the evening beach social that he recognized me and we resumed our previous year's dialogue, but this time with a light-hearted conviviality.
At the Happy Hour at 5:00 pm on Saturday twenty-one boat crews emerged from their their nautical cocoons to join and create a Saturday beachside social. Lining up their dinghies ashore like a herd of thirsty cattle at a watering trough. All brought some spare chips, sips, salsas and eats to the beach. Almost all had never met more than a cordial anchorage entrance wave or nautical nod in passing. Mostly retired couples, a few with their dogs most with alcohol and or-devours in hand. In the next hour Henry and I exchanged our yearly greeting.
When Henry and I began talking, I asked him about how he had come to this park position. A former policeman, he was urged by his daughter to do something more meaningful with his life. Then I asked him if he remembered me and he recalled did in deed remember our exchange he previous summer and we both laughed about it. WE soon changed the topic to more important matters as he added that dancing music sometimes accompanied these socials. I asked him when the music started, but then he showed me his braced knee from too much time on a patrolling motorboat and consequently declined to crank up the tunes or display any of his break-dancing or limbo moves. It wasn't that kind of Nassauian booze cruise party boat.