A lobsterman pulls up to unload at a dock in Southwest Harbor
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.
Rich colors: lobster boats in waiting at Boothbay Harbor, Maine
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.
Lobsterman in Castine ready to head out for the morning catch.
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.
Lifting and stacking traps in Southwest Harbor, 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.
Pile ’em high: buoys and traps ready to head for home
We saw boats everywhere. Some bore women’s names.
Rebecca Dawn headed out to check the traps in Southwest Harbor, Maine
And some bore names but we couldn’t make out anything in the fog.
Lobster boats in the fog: Searsport, Maine
Some boats just sat waiting for tourists like us to take pictures, I suppose.
Boats at sundown: New Harbor, Maine
Tools of the trade on this lobster boat in Southwest Harbor
Waiting to check the traps: Southwest Harbor, Maine
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.
Dressing to bring ’em in: Maine lobsterman prepares for work.
Maine lobstering: bringing in the catch!
About 40 plastic bins (or thereabouts) were strung together, floating toward the dock.
Filled with lobsters, plastic holding bins float together to the loading 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.
Pulling in the lobster bins for the haul
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.
Sending lobster bins up the conveyor belt. Work’s not done ’til the last one’s in.
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.
The Perseverance: Lobster boat from Isle au Haut, Maine
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.
Beal’s lobster roll, Southwest Harbor
For more posts on our month in Maine, click on Travel Series: Autumn in Maine. It’s one great state to visit!