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There’s Something Special About a Lobster Boat

Lobster Couple Herman & Monique Coombs

Herman and Monique Coombs and their two children live on Orr’s Island, living the exciting life of the lobster family. Herman is a lifelong lobsterman, tending to his 800 homemade traps in just about every weather condition. Together, they make a powerhouse team, dedicated to life on the coast. They are Mainers to the core.

If you’re not a fishing family, or you don’t know many fishermen, it made be odd for you think about a boat being part of the family. But for a fishing family, the boat being another member of the family is an everyday thing. Fishermen check on their boats daily, make sure it has everything it needs, take care of it, talk about it … Man, do they ever talk about it!

There are Facebook pages dedicated to boats, and groups dedicated to discussing boats. Pictures, stories, hardships, and triumphs are shared with others who know what it’s like to depend on a vessel for their livelihood and safety. Fishing families don’t just use the boat for work, either. Boats are used during warmer months for fishing with friends and family, and for quick excursions to islands around Maine and nearby restaurants. It truly becomes something you rely on as a family.

So, it’s no wonder that many fishermen know the entirety of their boat’s life: who built it, who owned it, who sold it, and where it is now. Herman knows who bought his last boat, what repairs were made to it, and where it is; he misses it like he misses an old friend, and he looks back on the days on the FV Cathy Aldie fondly.

I used to run a blog called “Lobsters on the Fly.” Because of the blog, I was able to meet some very cool people and learn about fishing families all over New England, and even other parts of the world. I posted pieces from the blog, and pictures of our fishing way of life on Facebook as well, and one day I noticed a comment that stood out from all the others. It was from someone who was very familiar with Herman’s boat — the son of the previous owner. Herman speaks about the day he bought his boat with affection and pride. I’ve heard about Ed (the previous owner) multiple times, so when I saw the note from Ted, Ed’s son, I knew Herman would be excited.

Ted and the rest of Ed’s family followed along on the “Lobsters on the Fly” Facebook page, and it made Herman and I so happy that there were other people out there who cared about the boat as much as we did. And, surely it made Ted and his family happy to know that we cared about the boat as much as they did. (Unfortunately, Ed passed away soon after Herman bought the boat.)

Ed built the boat in 1982 and owned it until 2003, when Herman bought it. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now. If you’ve read my previous blog post “Fishermen Can be a Superstitious Bunch,” you’ll understand.

Anyway … this past summer Ted and his family came out to Orr’s Island to visit us and, of course, visit the boat. Ted even brought old photos of his dad building the boat, and he shared them with Herman. It was so fascinating and intimate to learn the details of the boat in new ways, and share such a passion with someone else.

After a quick lunch at our house, we all packed up and headed to the boat. Herman was able to show off his prized possession to someone who was just as proud of it. Herman and Ted swapped stories about boats — Ted is a lobsterman, too — and we all enjoyed a ride around Orr’s Island and Bailey Island.

I love the picture of my son Riley, Herman and Ted. Ted was on the boat when he was little, and now Herman takes our children out to work or play or learn — whatever you want to call it. Perhaps, creating memories? It seems like every time Herman takes one of the kids on the boat, something new happens: Riley fell in the rope locker! Joss fell asleep on deck!

When I posted the picture of the boys together on the boat, one of Ted’s sisters shared, “Teddy was about 3 or 4 years old when he started making his day trips (because he threw a fit when my Dad would leave him behind) … He could be found wearing his big, orange life preserver attached to a zip line so to speak and thus began his love affair with the ocean!” My son’s favorite color is orange, and I’m pretty sure Herman would like to tie him to a line every time the kid steps on the boat.

I can’t help but wonder if I’m conveying the excitement, pride, and joy that we all felt that day, well enough to those that may not be as familiar. There’s not much to compare it to — not anything material at least. We hope that someday one of our children will use the FV Jocelyne K (what used to be the FV Shirley M.) as their own boat, or that we can pass it along to someone who will stay in touch so we can share in the memories and new adventures. Because there’s just something so special about a lobster boat.

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