Something wasn't right! After motoring clear of some ferry traffic near the entrance to New London Harbor, I was about to hoist the mainsail when I spotted Escape circling east of the channel. Lobster boats are common here, and it was obvious she was hauling pots, but something wasn't adding up.
She appeared too perfect...too clean and orderly. Her yellow hull looked all polished and buffed, without the nicks and blemishes from the realities of lobstering. No diesel stains or grease marks - no rusty streaks.
The crew didn't seem legit either. There were too many of them, and their clothing stood out. Sure, they were dressed like lobstermen, but it was an L.L. Bean version of how a fisherman would dress. With the Ledge Lighthouse in the background, it was too choreographed a scene; straight out of a catalogue.
It turns out that Escape is indeed a commercial lobster boat, but she is a charter boat, as well. The smartly dressed people I saw aboard were customers, along for the ride. The fading lobster industry on Long Island Sound has led some creative fishermen to seek harvest from other sources of income. This thirtysomething-foot boat from Groton offers not only lighthouse and sunset cruises, but working trips to bait and haul lobster pots too.
According to their website:
"Ever wonder what it's like to make your living from the sea? Why not learn firsthand from lobsterman? As the boat leaves picturesque Pine Island Bay and heads out into Fishers Island Sound, we will share our 35 years of experience and knowledge as a commercial lobsterman. You will see traps hauled and baited, lobsters caught and measured, plus a variety of other sea creatures like crabs, starfish, sea urchins, and an occasional fish. Your active participation is encouraged."
Reality Tourism? Vocation Vacations? Carhartt Chic?
There's been considerable press in recent years highlighting farms and ranches which offer visitors the opportunity to work the land. It's only natural this niche market would find its way to the lobster industry, and I like the concept.
Anything which provides a better knowledge of where our food comes from, along with an appreciation of the labor involved, seems like a good idea. I only hope the day doesn't arrive when the words lobster-trap and tourist-trap become synonymous.
Rates: $30/person $20/under12; Reservations required. Lobsters are fished on the tide
Forbes: Authentic Farm Vacations
Washington Post: A Knell for Lobsters On LIS (2007)
Soundbounder: New London Ledge Light
Jennifer Lynn: Lobster Cruise A slightly different version offered in Norwalk