Marblehead fisherman Jacob Abbisso came to the rescue when a young woman and two little girls out kayaking were caught in choppy waters outside Marblehead Harbor and could not get back to shore.
Abbisso was captaining a fishing charter with two customers late in the afternoon of May 16 when they heard cries for help.
“We realized they were pretty much defeated and were being blown out to sea,” Abbisso told the Marblehead Current. “They were very tired from fighting the winds and waves.”
The girls are 6 and 10 years old. Abbisso believes the woman with them was their babysitter.
Abbisso, who owns Big Fish Mojo Sports Fishing, said the conditions were rough, with 20 mph winds and 3-to-5-foot waves. The water temperature was about 53 degrees.
“They were cold, tired and wet,” he said. “I could see the salt caked on their skin. The young girls were pretty hysterical. We went up to them and told them, ‘We’re here to help. We’re not going to let anything happen to you.’ I called the harbormaster on channel 16, which is for distress calls.”
Abbisso, who is 23, took the kayakers aboard his boat until harbormaster crews arrived. Marblehead Harbormaster Mark Souza is grateful Abbisso happened to be in the area.
‘Eyes on the water’
“The big thing here I appreciate is that these fishermen, who are struggling to make ends meet because of regulations, are a very important part of the waterways,” Souza said. “They are our eyes on the water. This could have been a tragic event.”
This is not Abbisso’s first rescue at sea.
“A long time ago, when I was a kid, my father and I found a man in a sailboat who was drifting toward rocks, and we towed him to a safer area. Another time at the mouth of Salem Harbor, there was a boat that started smoking, a thick, black plume of smoke. We got people off that boat.”
Souza said this can be a learning experience for all kayakers.
“They didn’t have a cell phone or radio on the boat, and the conditions were not conducive to being in a small kayak,” he said. “You should always have some kind of communication, a cell phone, with you and be wearing life jackets, not just have them in the boat.”
Abbisso wonders if he had a little help finding the kayakers that evening.
“We spotted a dolphin close to Children’s Island,” he explained. “It popped up a couple of times and came toward us, then turned and went in the direction of the kayakers. I can’t say 100% that it was trying to point us in the right direction, but it kind of correlated.”
Some people may remember Abbisso as Balloon Boy. As a kid, he created balloon animals for kids (and adults) at private and town events, raising money for the Marblehead Animal Shelter and other charities. He still “twists balloons,” as he puts it, but now goes by the name “Balloon Dude.”
Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.