When you've lived in an area for a while, you know the great places to go. Sometimes these places are well known to outsiders; more often they're not. If we were at home and wanted great views on the water, cute gift shops, interesting eating - local fish and fruit, we might head north to Door County. When we stopped in Ogunquit today, a town we had never heard of before, we didn't realize what a favorite it is for tourists from the northeast and Quebec. A friend from Connecticut had mentioned Ogunquit as a "must see" on the list and she is far from alone. Because this is the off season, we're used to having the places we visit pretty much to ourselves. But Ogunquit has obviously been a tourist hotspot for many years. We actually had to pay to park.
Unlike many coastal areas in Maine, the seashore here is open to one and all. In 1925 a walkway along the sea called the Marginal Way was built between Ogunquit and Perkin's Cove. Many folks were enjoying the mile long path today, punctuated with benches for resting and enjoying the views. Ogunquit also has a wide and long beach, a rarity on the rocky coast of Maine. Fishermen were fly casting beneath us. As is often the case, they did not seem to be catching anything, but it didn't really matter.
We boarded a boat in Perkin's Cove to sail out to the Nubble Lighthouse. Along the way we passed one house after another that looked like it belonged in House Beautiful or Architectural Digest. The guide called these mansions summer cottages and said that most of them are already empty for the season. None of them belong to "name" people until you go a bit farther north to Kennebunkport. Rather they are wealthy but anonymous folks who summer here and winter in similar looking homes in Florida or the Carolina's.
Although we didn't see as many lobster buoys as we had in the Boothbay area, this creature is still the star of the show here. A local fisherman unloaded a few crates and a circle of tourists gathered around him as if had the answer to the meaning of life.
On the boat we learned a bit more about this creature, which the guide described as a large insect. Only some female lobsters lay eggs. If a fisherman brings up a female, who has black eggs affixed to her underside, he must return her to the water. Before he does so he cuts a notch in her tail, which is a signal to future lobstermen who might catch her again, that she must remain free to produce more babies. It's a lifetime guarantee to stay off people's dinner plates. Lobsters shed their shells twice a year as they grow larger and when they are without their exterior home, they are very vulnerable to predators. Yet this is the only time that they female can mate. Once her shell hardens again, the male can't get close enough to do the deed. She keeps his contribution and fertilizes the eggs herself while he goes on his merry way. A female can lay millions of eggs, but only .5% of her offspring actually make it to lobsterhood.
In Maine a lobster mush be 3-1/2 inches long from its eyes to the base of the tail to be a keeper. Maine fishermen also cannot keep lobsters that are over 6 inches long between eyes and tail. The big lobsters are set free to populate the seas with more lobsters. This strategy has worked well here. Unlike many other endangered fish populations, the lobsters are becoming ever more numerous. A lobsterman buys an annual license and can only have a maximum of 800 traps. Since he must rebait these traps every few days, most do not handle even that many. If the bait is left under water too long, it's smell dissipates and the lobsters are no longer attracted. If a fisherman pulls up an empty trap, he still rebaits it and throws the old stuff away. Aggressive flocks of gulls follow every boat around here, assuming that old bait will be coming their way. These days five lobstermen must retire, before one younger man gets a license to replace them. Those that are lucky enough to own a license work very hard, but are more likely than before to count on making a good living.
And now you also know more than you ever wanted to know about lobstering.