“Ellis did it all before the evil tuna boys were born.” – Andrew Joyce
Ellis Hodgkins, one of the stars of Rockport, passed away a year and a day ago, on September 7, 2022. He was 87, but Hodgkins being Hodgkins, he never grew old. Or so says Hodgkins fan Andrew Joyce, author of his 2018 biography Ellis.
Joyce was one of dozens who gathered on July 25 to carry Hodgkins’ ashes to the seas of Cape Ann. In the height of Gloucester’s eventful summer, they gather aboard the commercial fishing boat Lady C and on a quiet, slow voyage take his ashes from Cape Ann Marina around the entire island, to Rockport, where for decades during the mid-20th century, Hodgkins ruled from his apartment on the harbor. .
“It was a gray rainy day in a calm gray sea,” Joyce wrote in an email to The Times. “A light rain followed us up the Annisquam River. When we reached the ocean we hit a wall of solid grey. It was hard to tell where the horizon met the sea. But as we neared Rockport the rain stopped. The sky and sea remained grey. But when we threw Ellis’s ashes into the sea, A crack opened in the sky and Ellis smiled at us.
Joyce met Hodgkins in Fort Lauderdale, where Hodgkins had lived for decades and commanded yachts. In 1976, Hodgkins founded a still thriving yacht towing company in Fort Lauderdale. The company, Cape Ann Towing, was named in honor of Cape Ann, where Ellis Hodgkins legend still lives.
“Ellis is my hero.” – Captain Dave Carraro from “Wicked Tuna”
Have you ever heard of horse whispers? Well, by all accounts, Ellis Hodgkins was interested in tuna. At 14, weighing 98 pounds, the young Ipswich native had single-handedly hauled a 750-pound bluefin tuna out of a 19-foot schooner. Hodgkins went on to catch a ton of tuna, including a record 796-pound tuna, putting Cape Ann on the bluefin fishing map and inspiring, among other things, the men who run the boats the world knew from watching reality television. Show “Wicked Tuna”.
Called the Boston Globe “the boy wonder of the Bay State’s fishing fleet” and “the most respected bluefin tuna captain on the East Coast,” young Hodgkins ran his business the way he ran his life: by his own rules. Part adventurer, part businessman, and above all a maverick, Hemingway could have been written.
His 36-foot tuna-rigged boat, the LuAnn, was his office, and if he took you on board, you would almost certainly get cash. You will also pay $200, and this happened when $200 was real money.
But Hodgkins was also surprisingly practical for an adventurer. When he, in his forties, saw the market for bluefins dwindle, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, and in 1976 named his start-up tugboat business Cape Ann Tong. Here, as in his Rockport apartment above the candle shop at the corner of T. Wharf and Mount Pleasant, his door was always open, and he was a friend and mentor to many, among them Captain Courtney Day, after whom he named a son. for him.
Day, who was captain of the Cape Ann Towing Company for decades, eventually bought the company when Hodgkins retired in 2000. He will also, for the past year, be the chief organizer of the July 25th memorial cruise that carried Hodgkins. Home ashes.
A handsome movie star, Hodgkins’ looks were part of his allure. On the cruise around the island, friends and family leafed through photo albums that reminded them of how handsome he really was.
“Although a light rain followed us to Annisquam,” says Joyce, whose 2018 biography of Hodgkins, “Ellis,” is available in paperback and on a Kindle, and “the boat moved at a funereal pace.” The mood on board was festive. at https://www.amazon.com/Ellis-Andrew-Joyce/dp/0998119369.
Like 87 Years in the Life of Ellis Hodgkins, it’s a great adventure.