The Return of “Number 38” – A PEI Lobster Fishing Adventure

An alternative title might be, “How a Buoy from Prince Edward Island Travelled Half-Way Across the Country – Twice.”

Isn’t the world a bit of a funny, but unique place for the most part.

Things happen or don’t happen, and often times there is no real explanation for why, but things obviously do happen.

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In June 2017, Lynn and I spent the best part of a morning hiking along the shore of Boughton Island which is located just off the east coast of Prince Edward Island. You can read about our morning hike on the beach here.

While on Boughton Island, we found a fully intact lobster buoy that had washed up on the beach front. As we walked along the beach, you could see and hear the lobster boats off in the distance. A gentle thumping and rumbling noise wafting across the sea.

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“Number 38”

So, what happened after we found the buoy? Why not read “The Journey of Number 38.” Reading it will give some context and a little of the back story.

Throughout the rest of 2017 and 2018, we spent time(mostly Lynn) getting to know Krystle via Facebook. She’s a vibrate Islander who has lobster fishing and all that it entails, flowing through her blood.

As time progressed, we told Krystle when we would be back on PEI and that we were exceedingly excited to meet her Dad, Mom and herself, as well as to spend the day lobster fishing with them.

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Excited to have us with them, Krystle hoped that we would enjoy the experience, as this was the real authentic lobster fishing experience, the pre-dawn start; the weather being what it might be that day and the ocean awakening as either flat and calm, to rolling and cranky, and everything in between.

Excited at the prospect of the upcoming day to be spent with them, we kind of looked at this has one of the highlights of our trip to the Island this year. Not to diminish any of the other activities, but for us, this was perhaps something that most visitors to the Island might not have the opportunity to experience.

In addition, finally getting to meet the people you’ve come to be friends with over the past year… that is and was the highlight.

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Krystle and Lynn

As part of the planning for our trip, we knew already that lobster fishing was an early pre-dawn start. With that in mind, we weren’t thrilled with the idea of staying in or around Charlottetown, and having to get up at 3:00 am to get ready and then have to drive an hour to get to the harbour.  We decided to look for accommodation on the eastern part of the Island that would put us closer to Launching Harbour. After a bit of searching, and with a recommendation from our daughter to look at Airbnb places, we found through Airbnb a super fully contained apartment in the Town of Montague on the east side of the Island.

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Town of Montague

In all honesty, both Lynn and I can say that this was one of the most enjoyable accommodations we’ve had over the years. In a way, it felt like home.  Our Airbnb was very clean, comfortable and we got to experience for the first time a heat pump (gotta say… we’re a fan!). The hosts were friendly and accommodating to all our needs, but at the same time giving us the space to come and go as we pleased. In fact, we never really saw or heard them much, even though they were living above us. All of this wrapped up at $55.00 per night!

With our accommodations all set, we waited with anticipation for our vacation time to roll around.

Once on the Island, we connected with Krystal to firm up our plans with the idea of meeting her at her house between 4:30 and 4:45 am, as her place was on the road to the harbour. Once there, it was a short 5 to 10-minute trip to the boat.

With the alarm going off at 3:30 am, we were up with coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other… driving along the darkened roads of eastern Prince Edward Island to meet Krystal and the start of the day we’d been anxiously anticipating for the past number of months.

Lynn’s take on the start of the day.

We arrived at the “Now N Then” just before 5:00 am. After meeting and chatting a bit with her Mom and Dad, Lynn and I climbed aboard and watched as they prepared to get going for the day.

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Gotta see where you’re going!

In just a few minutes, the key was turned on; the engine rumbled to life and we were off to haul in some of that world-famous Prince Edward Island lobster.

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Heading down the channel of Launching Harbour with the sun starting to peak above the horizon in the distance.

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A perfect sunrise over the ocean on yet another day of lobster fishing. Really, the pictures don’t do justice to the view we had heading out. Calm waters, cool temperatures and a sunrise that can’t be explained – only experienced.10

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One of the first set of traps to be hauled up at the start of our morning.

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As the traps get hauled up from the ocean floor, the lobsters are checked to ensure they meet the legal size requirements. Ones that are too small or large breeding females with eggs showing are thrown back. The ones that are kept are measured and graded as either canning or market lobsters.

Generally speaking, canning lobster or “canners” are the smaller ones weighing between 0.5 to just under one pound. These are the ones that are sold to commercial canning /lobster preparation plants.

Market lobsters are generally one to three pounds in size and those are the ones we might buy in a grocery store or eat if we’re out for dinner in a restaurant.

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Working the “gaff” to snag a buoy
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Using the winch to haul traps up
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Emptying and re-baiting the traps

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Measuring for size
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Freshly baited trap ready to go back

Lobster traps are baited with fresh or frozen fish to attract the lobsters into the trap by having a snack ready to nibble on the inside. Sounds a little like “an after-school snack”,  but the oils and smell of the bait draw the lobsters into the traps.

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A short video of Lynn showing us “how to bait a lobster trap.”

Once the traps have been re-baited, they’re slid down the washboard of the boat and pushed back into the ocean at that particular set of traps pre-determined GPS location.

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Lobsters can be a bit of a troublesome bunch when caught. Seems they like to fight and use those two large claws like vice grips. The market lobsters get banded with rubber bands once they’ve been landed.

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Banding lobsters was the only job I could “master” during the morning
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Another ready for market

And thus the morning was a series of hauling nets; collecting the lobsters; rebaiting the traps; sorting and banding the lobsters; re-setting the traps.

They even let an ‘old boy” from Ontario try his hand at snagging a buoy using the gaff pole.35

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I must admit I was pretty awesome on the three I did snag. Didn’t miss one and thus didn’t have to make the Captain “go around” for another try.

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After all the traps had been checked and re-set, the catch was delivered to a wholesale buyer working at the harbour. The catch was lifted off the boat, weighed and the appropriate paperwork exchanged between parties.

After getting the frozen bait from the supplier for the next day’s fishing, Paul docked the “Now N Then” in its slip, did a bit of tidying up and called it a day.

We really wanted to make the “Number 38” special for us and we figured that having Paul sign the buoy when we were out would make something unique.

From the time we found the buoy back in 2017 until now, we kept telling Krystle to tease her Dad in making sure he worked on his “signature.” However, once we got finished and off the boat, it seemed like a better plan to have all of them sign it.

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Krystle putting her “name” on it.
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Sherry showing us “how it’s done”
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Paul showing everybody this is how to put your signature on it.

We stood and chatted for a bit more, but all of us had other things that we needed to get to. Paul and Sherry invited us to their place, but sadly Lynn and I need to head back to Montague to change, as we had tickets to see the Anne of Green Gables musical in Charlottetown.  (When on the Island… we go from morning till night… we sleep when we get home lol)

Paul, Sherry and Krystle were accommodating and just wonderful people to begin friendships with. Taking more or less complete strangers with them on their workday.  It turned out to be an incredible experience for us.

We enjoyed Paul’s sense of humour as he “complained” much about the crew he had to work with most days (aka his wife and daughter). Sherry was patient in showing us/teaching us how to band the lobster and made sure we got the chance to try whatever we felt comfortable with in terms of helping. Krystle was just a joy to be around… befriending us and just showing us that true Islander hospitality.

One comes away after spending time with them, knowing that they are a very proud Islander family, deeply rooted on the Island and living out the fishing tradition that PEI is famous for.

We’re so glad and grateful that we happened upon “Number 38” while hiking along the shore of Boughton Island.

Without finding that buoy, we would never have had the chance to spend the day lobster fishing, but more importantly… we would never have had the opportunity to meet and make new friends on the Island.

Krystle, I think it’s time to start planning something for when we visit again next year.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

One thought on “The Return of “Number 38” – A PEI Lobster Fishing Adventure

  1. Pingback: 2018 – The Year That Was – justabitfurther

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