NEW BEDFORD — Fifteen years of scalloping has taken its toll on Thomas. But the 47-year-old, who is among the growing ranks of homeless fisherman, does not seem fazed by the frostbite he is trying to recover from nor the rheumatoid arthritis that make his hands stiff.
He talks about the men who died while he lived.
"I was supposed to be on board," he said, speaking haltingly with a Polish accent about the Northern Edge, a New Bedford scalloper that sank in the frigid waters off Nantucket on Dec. 20, 2004. Its five-man crew perished and many of them were Thomas's friends, he said.
Thomas, who asked that his last name be withheld to protect his privacy, said he had gotten off another job and, as he said fishermen often do, went out drinking. When he showed up for the new job red-eyed, the captain grounded him saying he wasn't sober enough to go fishing.
Thomas, who has not been able to forget the narrow escape, often talks about the incident and claims he should've been with them. He suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, according to Karen Ready, program manager at the Sister Rose's House, a men's shelter on Eighth Street.