Lobstering with Ken Beebe Harpswell, Maine

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Last Saturday I went lobstering with the above cast of characters. The Maine sun rises at 4 AM in July. Lauri and I awoke as the crows were chattering over Peter’s Cove in Harpswell. Our host, Pete Cowgill, had a surprise for his guests. Pete is on the left in the photograph above. Fellow Sigma Nu, Terry Wright, is on the right. In the middle is our host, Ken Beebe. By trade,Ken is a painter. But as you will find out in a number of posts concerning our day on the water, he has many other  remakable skills. One of those skills is captaining a lobster boat and managing well over 100 lobster traps in Basin Cove.

Ken welcomed us aboard and we had navigated no more than 50 yards before he idled up to a white and orange marker designating the location of one of his traps. We watched as he hooked up an power winch to the rope running from the trap. He engaged the winch and up came a 3 foot trap with at least six lobsters thrashing about. After setting the trap on the gunwale of the boat, Ken began to measure the size of each lobster. He never once guessed at the size. He used a  metal guage with a flange at 3 1/4 and 5 inches. A lobster had to be at least 3 1/4 inches from its eye socket to the meat of its first tail joint and no more than 5 inches. Inside those limits, the lobster was legal. In addition, he checked the lobster for a notch in its tail. An egg bearing lobster is notched in the tail by the captain and goes back into the ocean even though of legal size. Every notched tail lobster caught is returned to the sea because of its known reproductive capabilities.

After emptying the trap, Ken baited a mesh net with three or four pogies (bait fish) which were approximately 4 to 6 inches long. The week old pogies were very fragrant. He also used a metal rod to string an additional three pogies on a line which was strung on the inside of the lobster trap. Each trap has several chambers. It is designed with an escape port for lobsters of very small size. In addition, there is a black rubberlike rectangle on the top of the trap which will ultimately rot and open in the event the trap is lost permitting any trapped lobsters to escape alive.

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Ken banded the claws of each legal lobster and placed them in a basket covered with a small tarp to keep the lobsters out of the sun. During the morning, we pulled approximately 16 traps which yielded 21 legal lobsters. We accomplished this while never leaving sight of Ken’s home. Quite a backyard!

Maine Blue Lobster

20130715-094856.jpgSpending time with good friends from our days at Miami University has been a fantastic experience of firsts. First trip to Maine. First time lobstering. First effort to catch a striper on fly. We stayed with great lifelong friends, Pete and Margy Cowgill along with Sigma Nu and Ohio friends, Terry and Linda Wright. The Cowgill’s stunning new home overlooks Peter’s Coves outside of Harpswell, Maine. On Sunday, we were joined by Doug Starrett and his wife, Clare. So the gathered Sigma Nus had nicknames of Mush, Boat, Dr. Feelgood, and Smiler. I will let the reader ponder those match ups.

When it came time for dinner on Friday evening, Pete took us to the end of the isthmus upon which Harpswell sits. As we arrived at Basin Cove, we encountered Erica’s Seafood Shanty. Andrea is the proprieter of Erica’s which sells local seafood including lobster rolls and a fabulous concoction of crab and lobster meat named the Crabster. The shack is named after Andrea’s daughter, Erica, who also helps prepare and sell the delectable seafood. Husband, Toby Butler, mans the lobster shed next to the shanty and sells freshly caught lobster to the public. For certain favorite customers such as Pete, he will also cook the lobsters for pick up. We had ordered six. Total bill…$36.00 for the 6 pound and a half lobsters. After Toby dropped the live lobsters into the scalding water heated by a propane gas source he said, “Pete, come over here, I have something I want to show you.”

We followed him to the lobster live well which contained about fifty lobsters swimming freely in a 10 by 10 aerated salt water bath. Toby reached in a small trap and said, “these are 1 in 2 million”, as he pulled out a blue lobster. Blue lobster have a mutant gene which causes them to secrete excess protein which results in the blue shell. This lobster was a far more brilliant blue than the photo shows. Imagine the wonder of it! First day ever in Maine and we see a blue lobster. The lobster rarity foreshadowed a fantastic weekend with long cherished friends!