I guess it was my sister Cindy Mouch visiting from LaRue, Texas, who asked, “So, where are the Maine lobstermen? I see lobster rolls, lobster chowder, lobster pounds, and whole lobsters on paper plates — but no lobstermen! They’ve gotta be somewhere.”
And she was right, of course. They’re not just somewhere; they’re probably everywhere.
I could see them in the distance several mornings a week in Castine as I was standing on the dock waiting for sunrise. Lobstermen were checking traps, best I could tell. They’d go from one buoy to the next, stopping for a few minutes, and then do something (I know not what — couldn’t see that far) and then move on. It was October when the season was winding down, so we saw this activity less and less. But we were told that’s what the guys in the boats were doing — lobstering.
Sometimes you get lucky and see an actual lobsterman for real. One morning, a yellow boat pulled up at Acadia Dock in Castine right in front of me. I hollered down, “Where are ya goin’ today?” And the guy looked up at me with despair and urgency on his face and yelled back, “Lady, I’m goin’ to the head to take a pee.” “All righty, then,” I thought to myself, and it was the last time I asked a question of a lobsterman I didn’t know.
At Southwest Harbor, we finally caught up with a couple of guys who, if they weren’t lobstermen, they sure could have fooled me. They were hauling traps up onto the dock right across from Beal’s Lobster Pier where we devoured one of the best lobster rolls of our month-long stay in Maine.
And later we saw a couple of guys piling on one more buoy to a string I wouldn’t have thought could possibly make it home.
We saw boats everywhere. Some bore women’s names.
And some bore names but we couldn’t make out anything in the fog.
Some boats just sat waiting for tourists like us to take pictures, I suppose.
But then we hit the mother lode. We were driving past a small stretch of houses and yet another pretty Maine harbor when we saw a flurry of activity. Strong, youthful men decked out in wading boots and full body suits moved past our car. I asked if I could take pictures, and one said, “Sure, lady. But it gets pretty noisy out here. Go stand at the end of the pier and take all the pictures you want. Just cover your ears.” So, I did as I was told.
About 40 plastic bins (or thereabouts) were strung together, floating toward the dock.
One guy held onto the string while other men set up the pulley system to haul the heavy bins up to the truck to be stacked for delivery. Organized, for sure. And hard work, even more for sure.
And the noise they warned us about? We heard it. It was a steady, ear-piercing sort of noise until the conveyor belt came off track. And then the guys stopped everything, turned off the motor, pulled hard to get the belt back on track, and gave it another go. They never let up. Not for a minute.
We saw no lobsters the day we came upon the lobstermen — not even one — but were told that this was one major catch. Said the foreman who came over to us to finish the story of the day: “Worth thousands. One of the biggest of the season. And I’m so proud of these guys.” We were, too.
So, there really are lobstermen in Maine. You just have to keep your eyes peeled and focused on the distant boats, if you’re standing on a pier in a lobstering town. Or you have to get lucky as we did and come upon these hard-working men and women unexpectedly. We’re just glad they do what they do. ‘Cause we’re kinda like Forrest Gump and his shrimp — we like lobsters any ol’ way.
For more posts on our month in Maine, click on Travel Series: Autumn in Maine. It’s one great state to visit!