There is a scene in The Ghost Trap where the characters talk about some of the more outlandish questions tourists have ever asked lobstermen...such as "why do all the boats point the same way?" and "What time of year do the deer turn into moose?" True stories, all of them..and that's why they made it into the book.
Well I belong to a private FB page for lobstermen and they shared this photo, along with more stories in the comments. Note: Names have been left off to protect the members' privacy.
"I was once asked if I set all my traps in the morning and then bring them all home at night."
"Lololol I was pulling a half tote of cod up the dock one time and a tourist looked in the tote and asked what kind of fish is that??? I replied codfish... her lady friend told me I was wrong... those are Trout 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂"
"My wife overheard a conversation between two tourist that went like this. "What are the painted objects floating in the water?" "They're lobster buoys, see how some are laying down and some are standing?' "Yes" "When a lobster walks in a trap it causes the buoy to stand, that's how lobstermen know which traps to haul." True story."
"Lmao... I was eating at the weather vane once and the guy in back of us was saying he knows everything about lobsters... so I listened he told his girlfriend for starters they don’t go any deeper than 20 feet... I stopped listening 😂😂😂"
First of all, you have to be ready to depart on a 9:30 am ferry out of Rockland, for a scheduled 1 pm presentation and book signing. And you can't leave until the 3:30 pm boat departs. So here we are on one spectacularly blue sunny Saturday, for basically an 8-hour stretch. So, this is a commitment. We're in this for the long haul today.
Capt. Ryan Post is with me, along with his 13-year-old nephew Drew Philip, who offered to be our book and DVD pack horse and schlep everything onto the ferry. Drew's psyched because we put him in our press release picture and now he's our official groupie. All of Ryan's buddies are currently heading out to OxFest, a day-long festival of bands. He'd been hanging out with Geno, his sternman the night before and I'm probably guessing that he'd rather be on his way to Wiscasset with his friends at the moment than on our way to North Haven to work all day.
"Kind of a bus man's holiday for you," I said, as we stared over the white metal rail of the ferry into the churning deep blue water below. "Here it is your day off and you're back on the water."
"Nah," he scoffed. "There's no place I'd rather be than on the water."
An hour later, coming into the Fox Island Thoroughfare between Vinalhaven and North Haven, it strikes me how many grand houses and mansions are thisclose to the water's edge. Imagine. Spending your summer on this island, the channel right outside your bedroom window. It all seems like out of a sensitive woman's novel, this splendor and gentle living. But, Ryan grew up on an island. You'd better know how to be alone with yourself for long stretches or time without going stir crazy.
Waterman's Community Center welcomes us and we set down all of our gear. After some technical fiddling around with our presentation (great thanks go to Lana and Rachael for their help), we head out for a quick lunch. Soon, it was time for our presentation. The only problem? It's a sunny Saturday on the island. Would you rather be on the beach or in a darkened theater?
Instead of 40-50 people like we expected, about 15 showed up. (Sigh. Welcome to the typical book signing experience. Even Linda Greenlaw, whom I'd seen a week earlier at her book signing had about 20 or so people show up on a sunny day.) Still, as you can see from the quick clip below (Drew needs to be a little more steady on the camera :), we threw out an entertaining presentation about how the fictional subculture in my novel so closely resembles the one in which Ryan works and lives daily, as evidenced in Maine Buggin, his day-in-the-life DVD.
The thing is, it's all about the experience, not how many books/DVDs you sell. That's why writers and lobstermen are so similar--you ain't in this for the money, honey, you do it because it's your life. And honestly, with a couple of ferry cocktails on the way back home with the sun bouncing off the water, the comfortable hum of the ferry engines rumbling, and knowing you put in a good day--could there be anything better?
By Ryan Post
In the news lately, people have been getting the impression that all lobstermen are a bunch of pirates running around with Jolly Roger flags swinging swords and shooting guns. . . and though some do fit that category, it’s not the case for most of us. Trap wars have been going on for generations, but some major things have happened this summer with a shooting, boats being sunk—lots of traps being cut all up and down the coast, including mine. In this industry, you walk a fine line—if you put your tail between your legs when someone cuts your traps—you’re done. But if you go off and be a pirate and cut someone else’s traps—you’re also done. All that has been going on up and down the coast is that we’re not getting enough money for our product. Tensions are high and people are really struggling right now. At it stands, even I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the winter. What's happening is lobstermen are not very happy with their economic situation and some think the grass is greener on the other side—or the fishing is better over in someone else’s territory as the case may be—and they don’t always obey the invisible territory lines. When people are really struggling, losing their boats, behind on their mortgage payments, that’s when you see bad behavior. I don’t condone the piracy and I don’t cut traps. Our family has never gone down that road. I don’t do it because I don’t want people cutting mine (even though they still do). If you get caught whacking those traps off, you could lose your license for two or three years. And people who retaliate are usually the ones who get caught. Still, I get why people on the outside are fascinated by this—it’s not like the politics they deal with in their office, but it’s not a Hollywood movie, it’s real to us. And when lobstermen are getting a fair boat price, that’s when you will see things settle down and find peacetime on the water.
My friend K. Stephens just released her first novel, The Ghost Trap, the story of Jamie Eugley, a young lobsterman struggling with the grinding responsibilities of a head-injured fiancée and mounting trap wars in the midcoast. The Ghost Trap seems to be art imitating life with the timing of trap wars this summer. What’s honest about some of these scenes is that you may think you know who cut traps (which almost always starts the wars), but you don’t really know for sure. And isn’t that the truth about how trap wars sometimes start…and end? I loved this book when I read it. It really hit home and relates to a lot of how I grew up on an island. Jamie is born and raised around a lobstering community in a small town in Maine and has loyalty and dedication to the industry, with a lot of drama around trap wars as well as a romance that is doomed. When I read it, it didn’t almost seem like fiction, but like I was reading pages from my life and how I grew up.
This character doesn’t lie down and let people run over him and his family, but at the same time, he’s hard working, well spoken and not the one to start conflict –and that’s what I relate to. People have the misconception lobstermen aren’t educated or intelligent, but it’s just the opposite. You have to have intelligence, navigational skills, be able to operate a boat, have common sense and an unbelievable work ethic to survive in this business. When you’re on a boat, anything can happen at any time. There are no tow trucks that come out and jump-start you. You need to adapt, overcome, find solutions to fix the problem and that comes down to time on the water, a lot of experience and again, common sense. Put me in most situations on the water or off, I’d rather have a lobster fisherman with me than someone who has a mega IQ but who has no common sense and couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag.
With The Ghost Trap and my educational DVD, Maine Buggin, K. and I will be going around to bookstores and events all over Maine this fall. We’re going to take an ordinary book signing and turn it up a notch by bringing some real excitement to the lobstering industry. Splicing excerpts of her novel that relate to chapters of my DVD, we plan to bring energy, passion and the educational perspective to how lobster traps work, how invisible territory lines are drawn, and why trap wars usually happen outside of the news. I don’t think anyone’s ever done this before where a novel and an educational DVD dovetail so well. (Join this Facebook Fan Page to learn more.)
I wrote this column because all people are hearing in the news about lobstermen are the negatives and they need to be reminded of the positives, such as the fact that we are the original environmentalists, conservationists and stewards of our sustainable industry because of the methods we’ve used over generations of our fishery. There is a lot of good in what the majority of us do. So, look for K. and me this fall—ask us any questions. Our first official appearance will be during Windjammer Weekend, Saturday September 5 at Sherman’s Bookstore in Camden from 1-3 pm. If it’s a nice day, you’ll see us out on the sidewalk. Come on by.
Columns and news about the subculture of Maine lobstering.