Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Day in the Ocean with a Maine Lobsterman

On a warm August Maine morning, Mark and I arrived at the Bucksport Town Dock to board the Jenny G II for a 3 hour lobster boat tour on a real working lobster boat, piloted by Captain Greg Perkins.   We immediately liked our captain when his response to our half hour early arrival was, “I love Mainers, you’re always on time!”
Once on board, we headed down the main channel, past Fort Knox and under the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.  After passing a few porpoises, Greg began hauling in traps.  First, he gaffed the buoys with a gaffing hook and hooked the line to the wheel pulley and once the trap was at the side of the boat, he easily hauled it up with one hand.  Once he opened the trap door, he began throwing crabs; smaller ones went back in the water, while the larger ones made their way to a crate to be sold.  After that, he checked the sex of the lobsters, measured them and either threw them back or wrapped elastics around their claws and threw them in a basket.  He threw the left over bait, herring, into the water for the waiting seagulls and filled it quickly and pushed the trap back into the water.  This all happened so quickly that if you didn’t watch closely, you missed some of the steps. 
Apparently, I hadn’t watched closely enough when it was my turn.  Just holding the gaffing hook in my hands with two oversized slippery gloves on was a task for me!  The whole time I was thinking, “What if this slips out of my hands and falls in the water?”  I succeeded in grabbing the buoy my first try, in part because Greg said he’d be nice and slow down and get real close for my first try. Then I proceeded to haul the trap in.  I’m strong, but this girl couldn’t do it with one hand.  I used all my leg muscles to haul that 50-pound trap up over the side of the boat.  As soon as I opened the trap door, Greg said, “Grab the crabs first and then it’s easier to get at the lobster.  Oh and did I tell you they pinch?  Really hard?”  

No…pinching never looked like it was a problem for Greg.  My first grab I got pinched and the crab wouldn’t let go.  A few crabs flew right in Mark’s direction when I began shaking my hand to get the pinch hold to release!  I never did get the hang of the just-right-place to hold a crab to get it out of the trap but I was able to comfortably take all of the lobsters from the trap without getting pinched. 
Each trap had an average of 1 to 2 lobster “keepers” and half a dozen crabs.  By the time I took care of the crabs and lobsters, emptied the bait net out and refilled it and threaded it into its hooks, closed the door on the trap and got ready to throw the trap back into the waters, Greg could have taken care of 5 traps.  He was very patient and explained everything about the business of lobstering, the surrounding area and his passion for this job he wants to do for a lifetime. 
 If you want a to enjoy a great morning on the water in a lobster boat driven by a great lobsterman, I highly recommend a day with Greg Perkins of Penobscot Narrows Lobstering Tours. 
And when you’re done, buy the load of lobster you caught and go home and eat lobster. As a matter of fact, help out the Maine lobstermen and eat lobster once a week-it’s cheaper than a pound of hamburg right now! 

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