Stranded West Virginian buoyed by Mattapoisett residents
Mattapoisett — Anthony Rhodes has had a rough week. The 22-year-old West Virginian was left stranded in Mattapoisett with $60 to his name, a skateboard and a 31-foot fishing boat taking on water.
But, he says the people of Mattapoisett have been a bright spot in an otherwise dire situation.
“They put money in my pocket, gave me a place to stay. I can’t put into words how much I’m thankful for this place,” said Rhodes.
After watching “Wicked Tuna,” a National Geographic Channel show about Gloucester blue fin fishermen, Rhodes knew that’s what he wanted to do.
Bringing his uncle, a mechanic, with him, and using funds from an accident insurance settlement, Rhodes came to Massachusetts in search of a boat.
He found a reasonably priced 1972 fishing boat in good condition, got his commercial fishing license and had Brownell Systems tow the boat to Mattapoisett.
Then things started to tank. Rhodes said small amounts of money began to disappear, but he assumed his uncle, who he didn’t want to name, may have sent some of it home to his family.
Not knowing how to use the bilge pumps, the boat began taking on water, something was draining the batteries and the starters weren’t working.
“We have no idea about boats,” admitted Rhodes. “Everything was brand new to us.”
Rhodes said his uncle got antsy to head to Gloucester, while he wanted to use his money to store the boat, head home and save up money so they could return next season.
“It was too much of a risk of losing everything,” said Rhodes. But, “[My uncle] takes it in the worst way.”
Rhodes said his uncle “abandoned ship,” and took his money with him. The would-be tuna fisherman ended up teary-eyed in Harbormaster Jill Simmons’ office.
“The kid tried. He’s trying to do something for his family,” she said.
Rhodes painted a dismal picture of life back home in Dunbar, West Virginia. With the coalmines closed, he said there aren’t many jobs. One of seven kids, Rhodes grew up with his grandfather, uncle and mom, and said he dropped out of school at age 16 to work. He also got his GED.
Rhodes, who has experience in freshwater fishing, hoped the fishing boat would be a way to help himself and his family.
“I’d hate to lose everything I came up here to do. I’m so close to pursuing the dream,” he said.
Brownell towed Rhodes’ boat to Town Wharf where it now sits.
“I don’t want to give it up. I’m not a quitter. I’m a better safe than sorry person. Unfortunately I’m in a sorry situation,” said Rhodes, who is currently sleeping in his boat.
Rhodes also said he doesn’t want to press charges against his uncle, and he isn’t holding a grudge, but he’ll be much more wary in the future.
As he tries to figure out his next step, Rhodes said many along the wharf have befriended him. One man said Rhodes could store his boat in his yard until it sells or until he can get it back in the water. Others have offered Rhodes employment, given him a little cash to get by and fed him.
“I don’t know how to repay these people morally, to show these people how grateful and how humble I am,” said Rhodes.
He gushed: “It’s the best place, hands down, that I’ve ever visited in my life. Great people, great harbor, great food. I love it here.”