Local Food: Lobsters in Maine

Not all local food is about gardening. Here in Virginia, some of it is about livestock as well, not to mention fishing and things like Rappahannock oysters. In Maine, there was some of the same thing, but lobster was big. The buoys that mark traps were everywhere in Linekin Bay, all with different colors. One morning I watched a lobsterman checking his traps. The captain of the Bright Line told us that lobstering was a good living, and that sometimes it was hard to keep kids in high school if they owned their own boats.

Sarah Mead at the dock, with Randy, left and Nate, obscured, getting her ready for the morning sail.

Sarah Mead at the dock, with Randy, left and Nate, obscured, getting her ready for the morning sail.

While we were in Maine, we went sailing on the Sarah Mead, a lovely friendship sloop that is also a lobster boat. I had noticed it moored off the Spruce Point Inn when we arrived, and when I saw it at the dock in the morning, I went down to talk to its captains, Randy and Nate, a father and son who had saved the boat from incineration.

A view of the mainsail, which is gaff rigged.

A view of the mainsail, which is gaff rigged.

I was able to arrange a sail from noon to 2:00 pm and what a ride it was! We had winds of about 15 knots and Sarah handled them with aplomb. Aside from an excellent tour of Linekin Bay, Nate and Randy stopped and hauled up a lobster trap.

The trap gets hauled up.  Note the buoy with the boat's colors that marks the trap line (lower right).

The trap gets hauled up. Note the buoy with the boat’s colors that marks the trap line (lower right).

They told us that the lobster industry is largely self-policed in Maine, that because most lobstermen operate in small communities, cheating is uncommon. Each lobster must be a certain size before it can be kept. Breeding females are always thrown back, and very large lobsters are thrown back on the principle that their genes should be spread about more broadly.

This guy was right on the edge of being a keeper.  They threw him back.

This guy was right on the edge of being a keeper. They threw him back.

It was a lovely sail full of camaraderie and information—historical and practical. If you’re in the vicinity of Boothbay Harbor next summer, give Sail Muscongus a call and arrange your own tour.

Nate in his orange lobstering waterproofs. Lobstermen hook the buoys, then haul up as many as five traps per line.

Nate in his orange lobstering waterproofs. Lobstermen hook the buoys, then haul up as many as five traps per line.

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