Your Turn: The joy of catching lobsters
A few times a week, I slowly motor past massive stone breakwaters in Stonington Harbor to engage in a nautical treasure hunt. My little skiff glides beside a weather-beaten orange and yellow buoy. I reach with a curved hook to catch the rope underneath and draw the rope and buoy to me.
The rope feeds into a pulley on a metal arm extending over the water, and I strain my arm and back muscles to pull up a wire trap covered with vegetation.
A quick inspection beyond the built-up vegetation reveals signs of life but only a conch and a few spider crabs, not the crustacean I hoped to see. I replace the bait, toss the pot back into the water and move on.
The next pot reveals a 10-inch porgy, and the last pot reveals the distinct brownish red of the treasure I seek: a lobster. I lift it carefully, inspect for eggs and measure the body. I can keep him!
I use a simple banding tool to apply rubber bands first to the pincher claw, which is faster and thinner, then to the crusher claw, which can crush or cut my finger.
The prize goes into a holding tank, and I smile all the way to the next pot, covered head to toe in little bits of seaweed and smelling faintly of lobster bait.
The salt air refreshes, and the quest for dinner exhilarates. On my way back into the harbor, I’m planning how to cook my dinner guest.
Moving to Stonington involved remodeling a tiny home. I was painting exterior trim by myself and woke up in the hospital covered with paint, a victim of gravity and an unsteady ladder.
Aquatic physical therapy at the YMCA turned into daily swimming, and a friendly woman asked me if I’d like to kayak with her. Gorgeous views from the water on that first and subsequent trips were transformative and they converted me from a landlubber into a water enthusiast.
A friend provided random fishing gear, and I caught nothing from land. I suggested to my husband, Leo, that I might try fishing from my kayak. His mind raced as he contemplated what it would be like to be a widower, and a few weeks later, bought a tiny boat and motor.
We quickly learned it was too small for ocean use and replaced it with a serviceable 18-foot open skiff. I still had no idea what to do, but Leo felt disappointed for me as I continued to catch nothing.
Weeks later, Leo asked, “Would you eat more lobster if you had it?”
“Yes,” I answered, thinking it was an odd question.
I returned home to see a wire-covered cage on the porch.
“What is that?” I asked.
“A lobster pot,” Leo said.
“And you have nine more just like it. If you catch lobster, you’ll be successful fishing.”
My blank stare of astonishment probably lasted less than a minute, but it was October and would be months before I would learn from the man who grew up catching lobsters in Noank but swore off lobstering and boating.
When I asked what we would use for bait, he said, “fish.”
“But I haven’t caught any fish yet. Won’t that be a problem?” I replied, with a chuckle.
A friend initially supplied fish racks, and we learned how to catch fish, so everything worked out.
My husband’s support fashioned a weird hobby that challenges me mentally and physically but gets me out on the water regularly to tend gear. I never tire of the stunning views, and learned to respect the ocean’s power, bounty and majesty.
Starting a hobby like this over the age of 50 generated countless awkward and dangerous moments, but I survived to tell tales. In my book, “Lobster Summer,” I detail my favorite kayaking spots, Leo’s upbringing in Noank, and describe my conversion from clueless landlubber to a competent boater, fisherman and lobsterman.
I’m proof that new relationships and hobbies are good at any age. Smelly bait no longer flusters me, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Elizabeth Saede lives in Stonington. She can be reached at ElizabethSaede@gmail.com.
Your Turn is a chance for readers to share stories, photos and opinions. To submit, email email@example.com.