SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Throughout the summer and fall, your best bet for finding a lobsterman to talk with is to stake out the dock before sunrise.
In the winter, you’ll find area lobstermen in their garages or shops where they spend the season tinkering with their boats, repairing lobster traps and assembling new ones.
Not only do lobstermen always have to work for their supper, they also have to be accountants, mechanics, electricians and painters when it comes to maintaining their fishing vessels.
Lobsterman Jon Carter, who fishes out of Bar Harbor, is spending his off-season repainting the pilothouse roof, redoing the bulkhead and installing a new 400-horsepower John Deere engine into his fishing boat.
“She’s a good old boat,” Carter said of Brooke Shannon, a 37-foot Repco fiberglass boat he bought used about 20 years ago. “It used to be the fastest one in the harbor, but now it’s the slowest.”
Carter makes a daily drive from Bar Harbor to Southwest Harbor, where he is working on his boat in a building on a friend’s property.
Brooke Shannon stays running smoothly because of the work Carter puts into it each winter. He said tuning up one’s own vessel is par for the course and has been since he began fishing 47 years ago.
“Back in the 70s, you didn’t pay anyone to do things because you weren’t making the money you are now. So, you had to learn how to do it all,” he said. He added that the lobster fishing industry in Maine was not nearly as lucrative as it is now.
Even now that many area fishermen are reaping the benefits of an abundance of lobster, most continue to maintain their own vessels.
“Every year, you’re putting thousands back into your boat because it’s your livelihood,” Carter said. “If you don’t take care of it, it comes back to bite you.”
The lobsterman said it’s in one’s own best interest to take care of one’s boat, even when that means putting thousands and thousands of dollars into it each year.
“If you’re offshore and something happens, you don’t call AAA,” Carter said. “It’s to your advantage to keep up with the maintenance, and you can’t go hire anyone to do everything or you won’t make any money.”
2016 was a good year for Carter and his fellow fishermen, which means there are plenty of projects going on in shops all across Mount Desert Island.
“When we have good years, we spend money [on our boats], and when we spend, it’s good for everyone,” he said.