By: Alva Solomon
Clifford Henry, popularly known as “Peanut”, is considered one of the first persons to start a boat transportation service that operates in the North West District (NWD) route, plying the Moruca to Charity route along the Pomeroon River.
After over 20 years of successful operations, this father of five in an interview with this publication shares his story of how he launched a profitable business that has managed to survive the influx of “stiff competition”.
Henry is known for his broad smile and simplistic banter with passengers – a trait which makes travelling with “Peanut and Sons Speedboat Service” quite a pleasant journey.
In his early teenage years, Henry was exposed to the world of boating through his father who had an 8 HP engine vessel that would travel along the waters of Moruca.
After his father’s boat engine got damaged, Henry started working with other persons in the industry.
Henry recalled that one day, “luck struck” and he was able to acquire his first engine, a 200 HP one, which gave him his “big break”.
From there, Henry launched his company and started to provide services from Moruca to Charity, and vice versa. This was around 2003.
Henry said at the time, another boat operator called Johnny Henry, also had an interest in the service and the two partnered to set the stage for what would turn out to be a highly competitive daily service offered between the two districts.
“The two of us were like the first set of people who start the service here at Moruca. Twice weekly, we used to operate…that was on Sunday and Monday and then Thursday and Friday the other week,” he explained.
At the time, the fare to travel as $60 per person.
As the time passed, other persons recognised the profitable nature of the business, and more and more speedboats began to ply the route.
When this happened, Henry said he had to find a way to climb above the competition.
In addition to acquiring more vessels, Henry said he also invested in several cars which allowed him to introduce a better travelling experience.
“We started picking up the passengers from their homes with the cars which we used as taxi,” he explained.
Henry was proud of this strategy, noting that it provided travellers with seamless transportation.
“So, when we pick up five persons with the car, we know for sure our boat has five persons,” Henry remarked, with his signature broad smile across his face.
But these days, the competition is “very stiff”, he lamented. Nevertheless, Henry said he has taken a backseat in the daily operations while one of his sons now runs the service.
One may think that a speedboat operator’s job is mundane, but Henry has had his fair share of notable moments.
One which he recalled is a horrific incident involving the death of a child sometime in 2010.
According to Henry, one of his boats had struck a piece of wood in the river whilst it was en route to Charity. At the time, a child was sitting next to the boat captain and the engine flipped into the boat as a result of the collision. Henry, who was not on the trip, said that the child was severely injured by the propellor and he died on the spot.
As a result of this tragedy, Henry said he and other boatmen took on the responsibility to clear the Moruca River of mangrove stalks or wood in a bid to avoid such accidents. This exercise, he noted, has been ongoing ever since the accident.
Henry is grateful for his successes as a result of the boating industry, noting that it has impacted his life in many positive ways and allowed him to spread that good fortune to others.
In fact, he said as a result of his business, he has successfully raised all five of his children, all of whom completed secondary school while some further pursued education at the university level.
Even though he is no longer as involved in the operations, Henry said he will always have that desire and hunger to provide top-notch services to the travelling public.
With all of these experiences in boating, one would think Henry’s nickname would be related to the industry.
However, he explained that the name “Peanut” stuck with him as a child, when he used to sell peanuts from his parents’ farm.
Henry explained that he used to walk around the community selling the nuts.
“So, it was “Nutman” they use to say and then it ended up being “Peanut”, so it left with me and, well, it is a well-known name now,” the businessman grinned.
With all his successes, Henry understands the importance of giving back. Henry often gives back to the community of Moruca, which is known for its love of cricket, football and volleyball.
In fact, various competitions are hosted throughout the year, especially at Christmastime, or during the Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations.
Henry would often sponsor these events through monetary donations.
In addition, he would provide boats to take teams free of cost to the destinations where sports events are held.
Henry also has another unique way of giving back, and this happens around Christmas. Henry said he would take a note of his regular passengers throughout the year and he would offer them a free ride to and from Charity during the hectic holiday season.
“It is my form of giving back,” the witty businessman said.