Let me tell you about Captain Hugh.
About 15 years ago we left the boat in West End, Bahamas for over a year.
We didn’t really mean to. We were just too busy or too scared to bring it across the ocean back to Florida.
When we first got there we met an old black man who had a ramshackle boat in the same marina. He didn’t live on it but he spent many nights on it. I think he lived with his niece in Freeport.
He was an old man. I have no idea how old he was then or now. He had shabby clothes that were immaculately cleaned and pressed.
After a short period of time we struck up a friendship with him. He taught us how to manage in that strange, to us, place. When we needed something done on the boat we’d have him arrange it and would have him pay whoever he hired to do it.
He really did take us under his wing.
One time we took the boat to a neighboring island and stayed a day longer than we said we would and when we came back the Captain was preparing to go look for us. Since the boat terrified me I was very comforted by that.
West End was an interesting place. There was a warmth and generosity there like nothing I’ve ever known.
I remember when we first got there we went to the little store up the block from the marina. We wanted to buy an extension cord so we could use our air conditioner.
The man in the store said we’d have to go into Freeport for that the next day but he disconnected his coke machine and gave us his for the night. He had never met us before.
And going into Freeport was a trip in itself. The bus routes were approximate. On one trip the bus driver took a left off the main road and stopped at his house to pick up his lunch.
On another trip we asked the driver where there was a hardware store. We only needed a few screws. He told us and then we asked where we catch the bus to get back to West End.
He explained that since the hardware store was only a block or two off his route, he’d drive us there, wait for us and then we could make the return trip with him.
The kindness of these people made me feel somewhat guilty for all the times I’d mug out of towners in NYC.
Anyway we’d spend a few weeks at a time there and when we’d leave Captain Hugh would live on our boat. At first without our knowledge and then with it. We also paid him $50 a month to keep an eye on it.
When we’d return the boat would be spotless and totally free of any liquor that we’d left there because as the Captain said “When a storm blows in you can’t expect these guys (his friends) not to have a drink or two”
One day when we were home we received a call from Captain Hugh saying that the customs guy was asking about our boat being there and it would cost us a lot of money if we didn’t get it out soon.
We arranged for friends to go and pick up the boat and bring it back to Florida.
I thought I had heard the last from Captain Hugh.
Well that wasn’t the case.
For the next 15 years, every holiday, Easter, Thanksgiving Christmas, I’d get a call from the Captain.
“How you doing, Captain?”
“Not so good, Mattie” and he’d tell me about either an eye problem or a hurricane or whatever.
And I’d say “Can I wire you a little money?”
“That would be nice, Mattie”
I’d send him $100 via western union.
The holidays became more and more frequent. He started calling me on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
As dave’s income slowed down I’d send him $50 but I never didn’t send it.
Eventually he’d ask me to send it in his nephew’s name because he couldn’t get to Freeport any more.
He called me this morning.
We went through the usual “How you doing Captain” and he answered as he always does “Not so good, Mattie” and it went on. He reminded me to send it through his nephew’s name because he couldn’t get out of bed any more.
Money is tight now but I still dread not getting those calls any more.
By the way I told Captain Hugh on dave and he was really pissed.