Sunday, 20 August 2017

Lobster Madness

A Carpet Of Floats
Coastal Maine is famous for it's lobsters - last year they landed more than 130 million pounds of lobster and exported over $200 million dollars worth of live lobster, with the majority flown to Asia. Along the coast, lobster shacks decorate every harbor, serving the thousands of tourists that flock to this coast in the summer months.

Cape Porpoise Lobstermen Landing Their Catch
Each lobsterman can have up to 800 traps in the water, and there are more than 6000 licensed boats out there. 

Estimates put the number of lobster traps in Maine waters at over 3 million, and I figure we've seen and dodged the floats marking half of them.

In fact sailing on this coast is hard work, with constant vigilance needed to steer around the thick carpet of floats that dot the water. In places you could walk across the floats with snow shoes.

On foggy days the navigation work load increases even further. Watching the radar for traffic, dodging floats, managing the navigation and constantly peering into the fog means that even a short four or five hour coastal passage is exhausting - we prefer not to go to sea if it's foggy here.

So how do you deal with this carpet of obstacles ? First, we simply don't navigate at night, but there are other things that help .....

Many local power boats use metal cages around the propeller to prevent the floats from tangling in the running gear, while yachts and pleasure cruisers use rotating line cutters attached to the shaft to (hopefully) cut the float line if it does tangle.

Two Piece Line Cutter
We've now ordered a line cutter to add to Crystal Blues - a two piece affair that fastens around the shaft in front of the propeller - we'll report on that later. Locals tell us that line cutters work some of the time - in fact sometimes if you hook a line you need to go into reverse to help the cutter work through the line. Even if that works, a mess of line is sometimes left tangled in the blades.

Of course hooking up with a pot is always going to happen where it's most inconvenient - entering harbor, close to reefs, or even when anchoring. Some floats are submerged at high tide, which gives us no chance of avoiding them.

Under sail the risk is reduced, as our propeller is folded and not rotating. However this summer has been strangely lacking in decent wind, and we've done an enormous amount of motoring as we move along the New England coast.

We've taken to keeping watch and conning the boat from well forward, at the mast or even occasionally at the bow, using the autopilot remote control to steer. That cordless remote has done an enormous amount of work over the past month!

The Admiral On Trap Watch, Steering With The Remote


  1. Very good summary of the dreaded lobster pots. When I was up there a few weeks ago there were hardly any compared to the last 2 years. I think you have lucked out this year. Cheers and thanks. Peter

  2. We are sailing north from NY, when do you plan to go south? We like to meet you again to exchange infos.
    Gudrun and Siggi
    SV Asante

    1. Hi Gudrun and Siggi, we are in Rockland , Maine, for the next few weeks. Hopefully we will meet up on our way south. Cheers, Ley and Neil


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