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By Vanessa Braithwaite
The mining town of Linden, Upper Demerara-Berbice (Region Ten) has many unique characteristics. Among those is that it is the only town in Guyana that is divided by a river.
Before attaining township status, more than half a century ago, Linden was known as the communities of Wismar, Mackenzie and Christianburg all of which were only accessible by water taxis, commonly referred to as passenger boats which crossed the Demerara River. As such, boat landings were set up along Burnham Drive on the Wismar shore and connected to others along Coop Crescent on the Mackenzie shore. The boat operation
business in Linden heightened in the town with the establishment of the country’s first bauxite company in 1916. At that time, hundreds of young men had journeyed to Linden to seek employment in that sector. Many of those who flocked Linden in search of greener pastures resided on the Wismar shore under an apartheid system which was initiated by expatriate workers.
Only employees and foreigners resided on the Mackenzie shore with South Mackenzie communities being occupied primarily by Europeans. Over on the Mackenzie shore, the train service was the primary means of transportation but for those who had no desire of working at the bauxite company, becoming a boat operator provided a comfortable living. Even with the construction of the Wismar/Mackenzie bridge in the 1960’s, the boat service remained useful, as it provided easier access to several communities along Burnham Drive. These include Victory Valley, Green Valley, Silver Town and Christianburg.
This has not changed. Though the Wismar/Mackenzie bridge remains an important structure in the bridging of the two shores, boat services provide a faster and more
affordable means of transportation for thousands of Lindeners. Boat operators have told Village Voice that hundreds of passengers commute in their
ferries daily. There are six boat landings in Linden: Adams, Chester, DeYoung, Major, Rigby and Dutchie’s most of which are family owned and were passed down from
generation to generation.
Leslie Adams has been a captain at the Adams boat landing for over 30 years. As a former bauxite ‘casual’ worker, he decided to join the family business, which at the time was managed by his late uncle. He said the Adams Boat Service which also operates the Adams
Boat Landing, was first managed by Victor Adams. After he died, his brother Theodore Adams managed the operations which was subsequently managed by his daughters when he also died.
“I decided to come and ask me uncle to get a job and when I start the job, I see it can do something for me, so from since then to now, I never come off,” he said.
In Linden, boats stay moored at boat landings for approximately five minutes so room can be made for approaching boats. This is not dependent on a boat being fully occupied as many boats traverse the river with just one passenger.
Captain Adams called for an increase in fares. He said that with the adult fare being $60 maintaining himself and family has become extremely difficult particularly during the
“At the moment here we not doing so much because of the pandemic, we not getting through so much, passengers not crossing so much like before. I use to work whole day and cut it off and work half day, so it not so nice now,” Adams told Village Voice Guyana. But despite the challenges posed by the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Adams has no intention of seeking an alternative job. He said he enjoys transporting passengers across the river safely and despite the obstacles that come his way, he will continue to carry on the family business.
It takes about two minutes across the river. In that short space of time, passengers enjoy the scenery, relax and enjoy the calmness of the Demerara River. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Alex DeYounge, a civil engineer student at the University of Guyana, whose father operates and manages De Younge’s landing is working to transform
his father’s boat service to a more modern and comfortable one.
The young man told Village Voice Guyana that carrying on the family’s business is very important and despite his dream of becoming a civil engineer, he enjoys interacting with
the persons who take his family’s boat service on a daily basis as they each have a story to
DeYounge has observed however, that many persons do not respect boat captains and it often takes lots of courage and patience to deal with those passengers.
“Just respect the boat service. Don’t consider this job as, ‘oh he is a boat driver’. Give your respect regardless; it is not just a job…it is a job that cares for people. As you cross the boat, the passengers’ lives are in the captain’s hands,” the young man said. The future civil engineer, like Captain Adams, said that even as he intends to modernise
his father’s boat operations, he believes that there needs to be a fare increase. DeYounge said that for 11 years, the fare has been $60 which is woefully insufficient to maintain the boat service. He said since 1998, his father’s service has changed four boats while noting
that the upgrades were not cheap.