Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Lulu and Lobsters

Besides lighthouses and blueberries few things are more symbolic of Maine than lobsters.  Over the last few years we have been coming to Maine we have become very familiar with lobsters – mostly the cooking and eating side of things.  This year we decided to continue our lobster education by hitching a ride on the Lulu Lobster Boat.  This excursion takes passengers on a ride out of Bar Harbor and Frenchman’s Bay where lobstering and beautiful scenery abound.  But Lulu is more than just hauling lobster pots.  This is two hours of entertainment led by Captain John who is a knowledgeable, funny, and charming man with a background that includes being a chef, licensed boat captain, and lobsterman.


The spring day we chose for our boat ride was chilly with a bank of fog that couldn’t decide if it wanted to hang low or disappear all together.  The fog added a mystical character as the pine-laden rocky coast and Porcupine Islands peaked through and distant fog horns sounded their warnings to mariners.  All traits of classic coastal Maine.  Lulu runs a number of daily tours depending on the weather and demand.  We boarded the 1 o’clock tour after filling up with a seafood lunch in Bar Harbor.  This is a family operation with Captain John running the ship and his wife doubling as deck hand and office personnel.  Captain John is a seasoned mariner and realizes that not all passengers take well to the rocking of a commercial boat so he was quick to pass out anti-seasickness bands to skeptical passengers.  Once underway it was clear this excursion was going to be a very informative and entertaining ride with beautiful scenery to take in.

First up on our tour had nothing to do with lobsters but a sight the captain wanted us to see – baby seals that were just a few days and weeks old.  The spring pups were curious about our rather large floating object and made their way towards the boat only to be reprimanded by a protective mom who quickly appeared from behind and coaxed the young brood back.  The seals hang out on rocks in and around the Egg Rock Lighthouse which is federally protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuges Complex.

Egg Rock Lighthouse was built in 1875 to mark the entrance to Frenchman Bay - standing as the sentinel between Schoodic Peninsula and Mount Desert Island.  The light has stood watch over sailing ships, German u-boats, millionaire yachts, and massive cruise ships like the Queen Elizabeth II and recent modern giants like the Anthem of the Seas.  The lighthouse is one of coastal Maine's architecturally unique lighthouses featuring a square tower projecting through the square keeper's house.  Originally fitted with a fifth-order Fresnel lens, the light was automated by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1976 and transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999.  Since the lighthouse is not open to the public, the 12.5 acres of land surrounding it serve as a haven to birds and marine mammals for nesting and roosting grounds.   
After admiring the light tucked behind the fog and cute faces of baby seals it was off to what we came for … lobsters!  Captain John skillfully slowed the boat down and grabbed the lobster buoy with a long hook, wrapped it around a wench, and slowly reeled in the heavy trap that would reveal what dared to crawl inside.  Lucky for us our haul was fruitful.  Captain John explained how the trap works, how to size lobsters and determine if they are within the legal limit to keep, delved into the natural history of lobsters, and emphasized the importance of conservation.  What we really liked about this trip was that Captain John was informative in a very entertaining way.  He explained that the lobster industry is one of the few commercial fisheries that is not imperiled and attributed that to imposed regulations.  Limiting the number of traps, equipping derelict traps with means for bycatch (like fish) to escape, prohibiting the harvest of females bearing eggs, and imposing slot limits on lobster size are some of the important regulations that help conserve the species and ensure abundant future harvest.  Something us lobster lovers appreciate!     

Since our boat ride on Lulu Lobster Boat back in the spring, we have recommended this to many campground visitors and tourists that we meet.  The scenery is quintessential coastal Maine beauty and the information Captain John shares is very interesting delivered with great humor and enthusiasm.  It is a pleasant surprise when something you might think is a “touristy” thing to do turns out to be as wonderful as this experience.