Is coastal Maine the essence of salty, succulent serenity? Yeah, but watch out for the feisty Homarus americanus—he can be brutal.
After fouling a prop on a lobster trap off the coast of Maine, Capt. Bill Pike considers the state’s iconic crustaceans.
Aboatbuilder up in Maine had just intro’d a new 48-footer and the company was offering me first dibs on a sea trial if I’d deliver the boat from Demillo’s Marina in Portland to the Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show, some 80 nautical miles up the coast, in the artsy little community of Rockland. If all went well, I’d do the actual trial toward the end of the trip where protective islands would offer a lee in case mid-August easterlies piped up.
“Sounds cool,” I told the marketing guy on the phone. “But you gotta join me, my friend. I can’t run the boat and operate the test equipment at the same time.”
Departure day dawned unpromisingly. The zephyrs zipping across Casco Bay from the east were doing a steady 20 knots and, in addition to this sorry kettle of fish, it was rainy, foggy and cold, at least by a Florida boy’s standards. Moreover, a boat-testing trainee I’d brought along last minute—a young fellow unschooled in the wiles of the sea—was eyeballing the horizon with misgivings.
“Wow, this is Maine?” he wondered, as we ambled down Custom House Wharf toward the Porthole Restaurant and Pub, an ancient Portland eatery known for its omelets loaded with lobster, a Maineidentified creature I intended to feast upon throughout the day or, to be more accurate, at least for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The omelets were excellent, with big, reddish chunks of lobster meat, yellow lemon hollandaise and home fries on the side. And immediately after polishing a couple of them off, our merry band was wailing up the craggy coast at 22 knots, with 4- to-6 footers hammering the starboard bow.
The marketing guy, bracing himself against the heavy lid of a locker for support while seated in the salon, seemed cool with the uproarious ride. But my sidekick? For starters, he was turning shades of green I’d never before seen on a living human being. And then, as we dropped bodily off the crest of a wave into a mighty trough just abeam of the Damariscotta River, he lunged from the starboard lounge to the day head below while making a constricted, woofing sound. Simultaneously, the marketing guy let out a yell— the lid he’d been bracing against had flown open and then slammed back down on his hand, drawing a sporty spurt of blood.
Of course, the better part of valor dictated that I hang a hard left immediately and find a coastal restaurant for a first-aid-augmented lunch break. And, to the undying credit of all concerned, once I’d found a likely spot we all ordered lobster rolls, although the marketing guy ate his with bandaged fingers, the trainee (who was preoccupied with efforts to arrange a cab ride to the nearest airport) ate only half of his and I ate mine with paleolithic abandon, no doubt due to survivor’s guilt.
Our troubles were far from over, however. Later that afternoon, as the marketing guy and I conducted our sea trial not far from Rockland, a relatively costly and time-consuming accident occurred—we ran over a lobsterpot buoy in our haste to finish up before dark.
“Shoot!” the marketing guy exclaimed, while the two of us stood despondently in the gray rain in the cockpit, with a poly pot warp wrapped around one of our props and, at its bitter end, a lobster pot way down in the depths, perhaps hosting a seriously disturbed lobster. “We’re gonna need a diver.”
When we finally arrived at Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors that evening, the place was packed. Nevertheless, I squeezed the 48-footer into a tight spot without incident, although the exercise was a true, stomach-churning nerve-racker. But here’s what’s interesting: The lobster lasagna I dined upon afterwards brought two surprising things to pass. First came a wicked case of heartburn, due either to my recent docking travails or to the veritable slew of crustaceans I’d devoured over the previous 12 hours. And second? While burping queasily, I was constrained to wonder—does being table fare make the ever-so-delectable Maine lobster mysteriously vindictive? And, as a result, will he sometimes, somehow, under some circumstances, have his revenge?