The first Maine Lobster Boat Race of the season opens at Boothbay Harbor in mid-June, and there are plenty of opportunities throughout the summer to watch lobster boat races throughout the summer in other areas around Maine.
Since the early 1900s the lobster fishermen of the State of Maine have been competing to see just who has the fastest boat. It began with sloops and evolved to power boats with the development of the internal combustion engine. First it was the make-and-break engines, which were followed by the typical automobile gasoline engine of 200 hp and now the boats are diesel powered with engines putting out as much as 1,200 hp.
One of Maine’s most significant maritime traditions also involves a favorite Maine pastime: eating lobster! Sitting down to enjoy the delicacy is definitely the end goal, however it’s also important to take time to understand how Maine’s signature seafood item gets from the water to the table. Before donning the bib, cracking the claws and dipping the tail into the drawn butter, consider several ways of taking the time to understand the evolution of the iconic Maine lobster.
CHECK OUT THE (ART-Y) FACTS
Maine Maritime Museum Lobster Exhibit
There are a number of museums in Maine that have exhibits, collections and activities dedicated specifically to the Maine lobster. Visit the recently opened Lobstering & the Maine Coast at the Maine Maritime Museum, the largest permanent exhibit that tells the authentic story of Maine’s most iconic fishery. When you’re on Islesford, head to Boats and Buoys, Lobstering on Little Cranberry Island at the Islesford Historical Museum and check out this community-curated exhibit that features imagery and hands-on activities to celebrate the men and women who have fished the waters around Little Cranberry Island for generations. And if you’re island hopping, you can go over to the Swan’s Island Lobster & Marine Museum to experience how, through extensive preservation work, brothers Theodore and Galen Turner allow visitors access to antique equipment, old time fishing techniques, photographs, navigational tools in order to learn the story of commercial fishing in Swan’s Island, Maine.
Photo Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Learn how the humble lobster began as bait and even prison food before it eventually made its way to a highly sought-out Maine delicacy. The Downeast Fisheries Trail site provides an in-depth and informative article on the history and science of lobstering, and how finally in the 1800s the commercial industry started to flourish and lobster was on its way to being an economically important resource and high end food. The Lobster Issue of the Maine Thing Quarterly gives readers a plethora of lobster facts, insight into a day in the life of a lobster fisherman, information on the long-standing Maine sea-to-table movement and, of course, how/where to eat our favorite crustaceans. And just when you thought you knew all there was to know about Maine lobster, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative offers a vast collection of resources and information on the iconic Maine sea creature including where to buy and how to cook and eat a Maine lobster.
Video Courtesy of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative
BEFORE YOU EAT THE ROLL,
SEE WHERE THE LOBSTER CAME FROM
Lobstermen at work | Monhegan Island, ME (Photo Courtesy of Thierry Bonneville)
A number of lobster fisherman/woman offer boat tours leaving from Bar Harbor, Portland, and Boothbay Harbor, among other ports. Before lunch or dinner, get out and see first hand how lobstering is done and even experience hauling traps right out of the water—talk about doing something of the beaten path! And since you worked so hard for your lunch or dinner, you’ll be more than ready to sample some fresh lobster–the hardest part will be deciding where to dine or what recipe to follow. Maine has a seemingly unending selection of places to get lobster, from the “best” or “most authentic” shacks to fine dining restaurants totraditional community beach bakes. You could also, of course, make your own lobster roll…
WHAT WE DO:
ENJOY LOBSTER EVENTS ALL YEAR, EVERY YEAR
Succulent Maine lobsters! Photo Courtesy of Thierry Bonneville
Every year in Coastal Maine there are year round, annual, and unique events and activities that center around the theme of lobster. For example, every year from June to August, the Maine Lobster Boat Races not only showcase participants’ sailing and boating talents, but spectators also really get into the spirit too as they cheer on their favorite boat. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Lobster Bicycle Ride has been circling the state since 2002—the routes vary from 15 to 100 miles and follow winding, country lanes and breathtaking rockbound coast; Bicycling Magazine recently recognized the century route as one of the TOP TEN in the country. Head to Rockland the very end of July to the first weekend in August—like thousands of attendees have since 1947—for the Maine Lobster Festival, a nationally and internationally recognized event and the ultimate festival for lobster aficionados!
Everyone knows that lobster is the quintessential Maine food, however we also have another “secret weapon” in our larder. The same marine ecosystem that produces Maine’s succulent lobster also works for producing some amazingly noteworthy oysters. The region’s cold, pristine waters and sheltered, tidal rivers are optimal for Crassostrea virginica (East coast oysters), and Maine is increasingly being recognized as one of the country’s premier oyster regions, evidenced by the high product demand.
To get an idea of just how prevalent oysters are in Maine, if you travel for example along the riverbanks Damariscotta and Newcastle—where many Maine oysters are grown—you will see piles and piles of middens, an indication of the thousands of years that people have been eating oysters in the area.
Maine boasts over 3,000 islands, some accessible by bridge, some by ferry, some by private boat and some just not at all. Mount Desert, home of Acadia National Park, is so easily reached by car it seems not an island at all. But for a more nautical experience try an island by ferry.
Off Portland in Casco Bay are six islands served by Casco Bay Lines. While many residents use the ferries to commute to work, leisure cruises are offered as well. Choose from a family trip with the kids to explore tidal pools or wade at one of the small beach areas. Escape for a romantic lunch or dinner, a day at the beach, or bring your bike and explore island life.
Photo: Summit of Mt. Penobscot in Acadia by Richard Moore
Wiscasset was a prosperous seaport in the late 18th century, filled with sailing ships and international commerce that supported a sophisticated social scene. Wiscasset ships brought cargos of lumber, fish and fur to Europe returning with manufactured goods and accoutrements for the fine mansions in town. The smell of tar and the sounds of the docks filled the air. Everyone made their living from shipping and the businesses that supported it, until it all abruptly stopped with Jefferson’s Embargo of 1807.
Trade revived after the War of 1812 ended, but the world of international trade had moved on. In the 1890s, Wiscasset was rejuvenated by an influx of wealthy families looking for a summer home in a quaint New England village. They were looking for a place of cool and quiet charm on the water, where cars, telephones and other modern distractions were slow to take root. These families bought and preserved the large historic homes we see today.
Photo of Castle Tucker Courtesy of Historic New England
One of the best perspectives of Maine is from the water—this vantage point offers visitors views of coves, islands and harbors, all while taking in Maine’s timeless beauty and getting a sense of its seagoing history. From the on-the-water perspective, you’ll see many of Maine’s charming ports, observe animals such as seals, porpoises, and osprey, learn about the history of the region, and have unique access to seaport villages.
In late spring, summer and early fall, there are a number companies offering many ways to enjoy a bay or harbor cruise with departure options up and down the coast, from Boothbay to Bar Harbor, Camden to Castine. There are also a variety of vessels to choose from, including windjammers to lobster boats to a 1934 motor yacht similar to Hemingway’s beloved “Pilar”.
In many Maine coastal towns the maritime past is still part of the present, and Belfast is no exception. Sitting right on the water where the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River spills into the Penobscot Bay, early settlers of Belfast immediately saw the town’s commercial potential. With Belfast’s prime location, abundance of timber, sloping waterfront and proximity to varied agriculture, it didn’t take long for a strong maritime industry to develop.
Lobster traps stacked 10 feet tall on the wharf, with as many colorful buoys stashed neatly inside each one. Peapods and dories floating nearby, with lines attached to a cleat on the edge of the dock. Fishing boats tied snug in the harbor’s mooring field further out, bows all pointed in the same direction, into the wind.
It is an iconic image of Maine’s working waterfront, and it tells a timeless story of communities whose economy, culture, and character are intertwined with the sea.
Take a look at a coastal map of Maine and you’ll quickly discover there are dozens of peninsulas that stretch like fingers into the Gulf of Maine. Each one is unique and well worth exploring, and the Blue Hill Peninsula is no exception.
When visiting this Peninsula, it helps to love boats. Brooklin, the self-proclaimed “Boat Building Capital of the World” is home to six companies that produce everything from prams and peapods to offshore fishing boats to some of the world’s finest wooden yachts.