Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 1: Trap Day

The lobstering season on Monhegan Island, where I've been hanging out for nearly two weeks, begins October 1. Monhegan lobster fishermen, of which there are nine boat captains (including two women), traditionally fish through the winter in hopes of getting a better price for their lobsters. (It also leaves their summers free to pursue other fish or other jobs.) So Saturday morning the boats all started out from the harbor laden with traps, undaunted by a pre-dawn thunderstorm and thick mist. Even from my inn I could hear the cheering from the wharf as the boats chugged out into the fog to set their 300 traps in precise locations on the ocean's floor.

It's hard to watch them go and not try to imagine what that must be like in January, hauling traps out of 45-degree water with freezing spray blowing across your bow. It's a life of hard work but a certain freedom--the ocean is your office. Or, at least the bit of ocean that surrounds the island in which the Monhegan lobster fishermen have exclusive fishing rights.
The wharf on Trap Day
Leaving the island on Trap Day is a bit daunting, as the "ferry" boats pull up to the same wharf as the fishing boats. A fishing boat can only hold so many traps at a time, so the remaining traps sit on the wharf until the boat returns to re-load. So boats are re-loading most of the morning, with the ferry having to grab a few minutes between them to get passengers and luggage on board. Passengers are funneled on board through walls of traps, while the wharf and harbor bustle around them--the true way of island life revived for another season.

Everyone chips in:
drag a trap, play some music.
This is island life.

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