Tools Of The Lobsterman’s Trade

Yesterday we went our for a boat ride on a beautiful day.  We were the guests of our neighbors and cruised around Stonington harbor and the nearby islands aboard their lobster boat.

They say you can learn a lot about an occupation by its tools.  For a lobsterman, the principal tool is the lobster boat.  Our neighbors’ boat is a hardy, trim craft that is clearly built for work.  Every inch seems to be devoted to the pursuit of the tasty crustaceans that dwell on the ocean floor.  There’s a lot of open space at the back of the boat for the lobster traps and the bins and buckets that hold the bait — which typically is some kind of fish that lobsters crave, occasionally mixed in with “de-haired beef hide” flavored with water, salt, and lime.  De-haired beef hide?  Our neighbor explained that the material is so tough that lobsters can munch on it for days, meaning they’ll hopefully stay in the baited trap, chewing away ,until the lobsterman hauls it up.

Every lobsterman has his or her own unique buoy, marked by color and configuration.  When they arrive at one of their buoys, they use a gaffer to catch the rope connecting the buoy to the trap, then haul the trap to the surface.  Our neighbor says he typically tries to check about 275 of his traps every day on the water. — and his days start at 5 a.m.  If there is a lobster inside the trap, the lobsterman uses the tool pictured above to stretch the yellow rubber bands and place them over the lobster’s claws, then put the lobster into a large plastic tank filled with water.  The trap gets baited and then returned to the ocean floor.  And every square inch of the cabin — and the exhaust pipe for the diesel engine, shown below — is used to store equipment, navigational monitors, knives, brushes, ropes, bungee cords, and other tools of the trade.

As I said, they say you can learn a lot about an occupation by its tools.  A lobsterman’s tools tell you that lobstering for a living is hard work. 

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A Lobsterman’s Work Is Never Done

All over coastal Maine, the lobstermen are hard at work. Even though it’s the de facto off-season, when lobsters are inactive and the fishing is at a lull, there are boats to be examined and rekitted, motors to be tuned, and traps to be cleaned and tested. The smell of paint is in the air.

Our lobsterman neighbor worked all day yesterday on his gear, getting ready for the day when the boat goes back into the water and the traps and their identification buoys are placed in the old, familiar spots. The life of a lobsterman is not an easy one.

End Of The Season

The lobster season in Maine is over for the year. Those tasty crustaceans get a break for the holidays — and a chance to grow and replenish before next year’s season rolls around — and as a result the Maine countryside is awash in yellow. That’s because the old-fashioned wooden lobster traps you see in some seafood restaurants have long since been replaced by these bright yellow, metal traps, which are a lot more durable. The traps are all removed from the water during the off-season and are stacked just about everywhere.

Maine lobstermen and lobsterwomen work very hard, even during the off-season Along the coast you see enormous pick-up trucks, the lobster fisherman vehicle of choice, carting mounds the yellow lobster traps from dockside to workshop, where they will be examined, one by one, and repaired over the off-season. Our neighbor here has 500 of the traps, which he says is the legal limit. The traps are neatly stacked on pallets, and he uses a front loader to maneuver them into his workshop for repair. They’ll keep him busy this winter.

In Lobster Land

Psst!  I’ll let you in on a well-kept secret:  Maine has really excellent fresh lobster, in abundance.

No, seriously!  It does!  And I have enjoyed it at just about every meal.  I’ve had lobster and eggs for breakfast.  I’ve had a lobster roll — lobster meat on a split-top hot dog bun — for lunch.  (The Fish Net in Blue Hill makes the best one.). I’ve had baked lobster, boiled lobster, and steamed lobster.  I’ve bought live lobsters directly from a lobsterman.  I’ve eaten lobster on a beach where we’ve recycled the remains to the denizens of the deep.  And, for my first boiled lobster of the trip, I foolishly failed to bib up and ended up coating my shirt with water and lobster innards with the first crack of the claw.

After so much lobster, I’ve got just one question:  how much lobster do you need to eat to risk a bout of gout?

Fishy Signage

IMG_4436One of the cooler things about Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is that the town features appropriate artwork at every intersection.

IMG_4434An artist has prepared very fine depictions of fish, clams, lobster, squid, and other denizens of the deep that hang at the crossing signs along the main road in town.

IMG_4443I don’t know a cod for the halibut, but I do know that marine life artwork definitely gives the town the feel of a seaport.  I’ve attached a few of these fishy signs for everyone to enjoy.IMG_4435