They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships

When I tell people that Paul is a lobsterman, they think “Oh, that must be so nice… to work out there on the water in the air and sea and sun, with no one to boss you around, coming and going at will, making your own hours…” etc., etc. Then they say “…and having the whole winter off!” and that’s when I have to start in on the explanation of what it takes to be a lobsterman.

I won’t bore you to tears here with all of that information, but I found this video (and you know I love videos!) that does a really great job of showing just what it takes for a lobsterman to build his own traps, which Paul does every year.

This year he bought 50 trap kits. They come with the wire mesh all cut to size for him, so the only part of this procedure that Paul doesn’t really have to do is cut those first pieces out of the huge roll of mesh wire. He does have to trim things down to size, and then there is the rest of the process which is quite interesting as shown in this video.

The author has speeded it all up a bit in places, but you can see, if you watched it all, that just making this one lobster trap from a kit or from scratch can take quite a while and effort. Each one is made to specs that each lobsterman or woman determines is best for him or her. Yes, there are lobsterwomen around here but not a lot. I give huge kudos to those women to do this kind of work… they are tough cookies!

Paul not only builds his own traps like this each year (he will usually have to build 50 at least, more if he has lost a lot due to storms.. but he also knits his own nets for inserting into the traps. That process is time consuming, as well, and he does it up on his bed using the bedpost to hold the end of the “head” netting and using a shuttlecock type of instrument for the knitting of the heads.

Knitting lobster heads

Knitting lobster heads

Knitting lobster heads

Paul at work making lobster heads.

Not sure how long each one takes, but he’ll do between one and three of them in an evening. He has about 475-500 traps in the water, and these heads always need replacing, as well.

There are also the bricks that get worked into the lobster traps (seen in the video above), and he’s always on the lookout, during his beachcombing activities, for spare bricks. He has a little pile of them accumulated for when he builds new traps.

Here’s Paul with his new air compressor machine which runs the air-gun seen in the video putting the clips onto the wire mesh. Also, you can see a few mangled traps that need attention to the left of Paul:

Paul&Generator

Lobstermen who build traps are always going beachcombing. It’s one of the things Paul loves, I think. Quiet… peaceful… just the man and the beach and the sea. Trouble is that during these outings he will come across some of his gear, including whole traps, that have been tossed around by the almighty seas and deposited onto the beaches in deplorable and unusable condition. He will take these home and try to salvage as many parts of the trap as he can, but usually a bent-up trap has to go out front for the trash men to pick up.

An example of what Paul will find on a typical beachcombing expedition:

Trying to take apart all that gear is also time consuming. And these are several jobs that don’t even include the repairing of traps, the sorting out of rope, buoys, bricks, heads, clips, bungee cords, etc. that go into a trap. Then he sets about repairing the banged-up traps that he has brought in from the ocean (which all by itself is a huge endeavor, considering he can only load about 25 of them on one boat-trip into the landing and then has to load them all up a gangplank to his truck, up into the truck, over to the house, and load them all into the driveway for stacking. He can’t start the repair process until all the previously mentioned jobs are done and sorted out.

Paul at work

Paul moving traps or bringing them in.

All this work takes him all fall and winter to accomplish, even into the spring. By April and May he has a full complement of freshly repaired traps, newly cleaned and painted buoys, sorted ropes, and is ready to start hauling them all back into the sea again for another season of lobstering.

Paul keeps about 75 or 80 traps (I think he has 85 in now) in the water, as well as his lobster boat called “Bollocks!”, all winter so he can get out there if/when we get a decent day. Like yesterday! What a beautiful day it was here, almost like spring. A funny kind of winter we are having.

So when people say it must be a great life to be a lobsterman, it reminds me of this picture I took many years ago of Paul getting some lobsters out of his crate, near where he moors his boat just off those rocks at Fort Sewall beach… in Marblehead. Yes, it’s quite a life!

FortSewallAtLowTide

Not for everyone, but for the few who choose it, it has its payoffs, but those payoffs are hard won.

This is a live lobster - with orange shell - not a cooked one. He was released back into the ocean after these photos were taken.

Paul showing a lobster he caught that was orange – still alive and kicking – not cooked – to our Kip. He took this guy back down to the ocean later and let him go… a lobster like this is rare, and we don’t want to be cooking them if we can help it.

Cheers for the men and women of the sea,

Bex & Co.

Performed by the Choir at Ely Cathedral (England)

which is interesting because my Dad’s ancestors came from Ely, England!

THEY THAT GO DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS,

that do business in great waters;

These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.

For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.

They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.

They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.

Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.

He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.

Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Psalms, 107:23-3

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education.”

~~ Charlotte Bronte ~~

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15 Responses to They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships

  1. TopsyTurvy says:

    It really is some hard work that Paul does. I knew that before this, especially about his having to put up with tempermental weather, but that many traps is definitely a BIG job.

    Love the pic of the red lobster! DH and I are both fascinated with the various parti-colored lobsters that are pictured in the news periodically. In the last year we’ve seen a bright blue one, a white one and a purple one. Amazing!

    Christos, I’m so sorry to hear that you have a friend on that stricken ferry. Sending you best wishes for his safe return.

    Like

  2. Bex, My goodness who knew? It seems like an all consuming job. Obviously Paul’s calling. A man of the sea. It has a romantic flare to it among other things. Paul looks healthy and happy.

    Such hard work. I never gave it much thought though I am familiar with some folks years ago who clammed and lobstered in my home town. It is not easy. You work with mother nature and she’s temperamental. Kudos to Paul.

    Slightly off topic…I have a friend who delivers papers. I never gave that much thought either. It is very hard and consuming work. The things she tells me are fascinating. It isn’t like lobstering but it is all consuming.

    Thanks for the post and food for thought!

    Like

  3. Nina Camic says:

    Honestly Bex, I can’t imagine who would say “what fun and games!” about a fisherman or lobsterman’s work> It seems incredibly grueling and challenging — requiring patience, grit, savvy, endurance and fearlessness. A very tiny number of us could do that kind of work. Very tiny. Wishing you both a safe and wonderful New Year!xoxo

    Like

  4. Bex says:

    Eric,
    The traps don’t HAVE to be built from kits, it’s just less expensive than buying them all built. Same for the net heads… knitting them only costs for the twine… all knit cost much more.

    Anna,
    Kenny told me what I’d done and now my blog should show up on that JS index page… I had blocked my blog from search engines before, but I’ve unchecked that now.

    Like

  5. Eric Mayer says:

    Amazing. (Can’t watch video but can read your description and see the photos) Although, honestly, I would never have thought it was easy being a lobsterman.

    As is ever the case, other people’s jobs look easier from the outside, to people who have no idea ll that is involved. It would never have occurred to me that the traps had to built from kits, let alone that the nets had to be hand knit! And 500 traps — wow. I had no idea.

    Fascinating post.

    Like

  6. Bonnie says:

    Mighty interesting but I’m curious how they enter and don’t get back out and how you unload them? I know how a have a heart trap works, but.. 🙂

    Beach was a mess. Any other lobster person go grab stuff?

    Like

  7. Bex says:

    Thanks, San… big hugs…

    Like

  8. sandy freel says:

    Wow…LOVE how you told about Paul job and such…Huge thanks for all the research you do for us to get more out of each blog

    Like

  9. Bex says:

    Anna!

    I ordered Last Tango just a few days ago… the next (? final ?) series… I think it’s coming out in a few weeks (just checked, coming out on 2 Feb 15)… I love that show SO MUCH!

    We are also watching “dinnerladies” also with Ann Reid and the incomparable Victoria Wood (who was in “Housewife, 49” that we have and was excellent)… loving that series.

    A young Maxine Peake shows up in the first series quite overweight and then lost a ton of poundage for the second series… she’s one my all time faves…

    Like

  10. Annanotbob3 says:

    ‘Appen you’re right, Bex! The final series of Last Tango in Halifax starts tonight… xx

    Like

  11. Bex says:

    Anna, no it is not a choice I’ve made. I don’t know what is happening with JS lately. I have 2 of my own addys subscribed to the notifies and I never get them, on time. Some are 24 hours late! Some never come. And yet readers seem to be getting them OK. I don’t know why I am not on the JS list of bloggers either… because I used to be. I wrote to Kenny and he never answered me.

    I have switched from Firefox (then to IE) over to Google Chrome in the last week but I believe this preceded all that… as you mentioned it once before a while ago. I don’t know the answer.

    “Happen” I’ll write to Kenny once more… (we are watching the first 4 series of “Emmerdale Farm” (all they offer on DVD are series 1-4 so far) and this is a word they use all the time (is it in Yorkshire only???) “happen” instead of what I would perceive to be the word “maybe” – am I right?

    Like

  12. Bex says:

    Oh Christos! I was just reading the article about that ship that is on fire! How horrible for them… One person has died… what a mess! I am sorry, I hope your friend gets off ok!

    Like

  13. Annanotbob3 says:

    Lovely! I can only think those that say the life of a lobsterman is idyllic must live far inland. And what a beautiful title “They that go down to the sea in ships” – amazing how the order of the words gives it such a powerful and poetic ring. Your blog is not showing up on the js list any more – I only get it if I catch the link on Facebook – is this a choice you have made or a glitch? Many thanks for all your support through these dark days and best wishes for the New Year to you and your Paul and your four-legged friends xxxx

    Like

  14. Paul’s vocation reminds me of farming. I grew up on a farm. Lots of work, outdoors, and a lot of financial risk dependent on the weather and mother nature. Not quite as dangerous as working on the sea I would think, although farming is quite dangerous due to the large scale equipment used by people who work long, long hours.

    Great post, who knew!

    Like

  15. Christos G. Makrypoulias says:

    Bex, your post’s timing couldn’t have been more appropriate. At this very moment a family friend, a merchant marine officer, is on board a burning passenger ship somewhere between the Ionian and the Adriatic! His wife and two kids (my sister-in-law is godmother to the older one) are beside themselves with agony! Definitely not the best way to celebrate New Year’s…

    Like

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