My First Summer Job
Growing up on the coast of Maine was an unforgettable experience. The fascination I have today with marine life, scuba diving, boating and the love of the sea all began as an 8 year old boy moving to the coast of Maine in 1947. Our family lived in a rented house on a dead end road near Long Sands, in York, Maine. I could walk to the ocean from my house through the woods and by a long deserted ice house. I remember playing with friends and showing them how to find and catch crabs and other crustaceans in tide pools at Long Sands.
We eventually moved from this house to a larger house near the center of York Village, then called since the town of York was still separated into three separate towns. From this house, I got acquainted with a different part of the ocean, the York River, and its many commercial fishing wharves.
It was here I met one of the people who influenced my later years. When I was 12, a neighbor wondered if I wanted to earn some money by helping him to clean and paint his lobster boat. I don't remember how much thought I gave this idea, but I soon found myself in wet grey sand in the mud flats of the York River, scrubbing the hull of a 32 foot lobster boat with a stiff scrub brush. After the scrubbing came the paint. We put two coats of the distinctive red copper paint from the water line and below on the entire hull. Next we began to scrape and paint the floor and decks of the boat. It was here I learned that when you missed a spot with the brush it was called a "holiday"! I guess this is because the painter took a holiday when he was painting that area. I was earning the magnificant sum of 75 cents an hour for this effort, a wonderful wage in 1951.
My boss always called me ""Willy". I found out later that he had read "The Caine Mutiny" and I was named after one of the characters, Willy Keith. I learned to appreciate the name as it always meant I was doing a good job. After the painting, the owner of the boat asked me if I wanted to go see what lobstering was all about. After all, the boat had been up on blocks for several days and it was time for him to get back to work. Thus began an 8 year career as a first mate on a Maine lobster boat. In the course of this work, I learned to build oak lobster traps, "knit" the nets or heads as they were called, paint buoys, rig the lines (pot warp) they were pulled by, and of course, to peg lobsters, haul and bait traps, and take care of the myriad of tasks associated with a Maine lobsterman. I held a Maine license for these years and kept track of the lobsters I caught and the market price for them.
It was a wonderful summer and part-time job. I learned so much about navigation, currents, undersea terrain, weather, marine life and seriously thought about making this a life's work. However at that age, I was itching to know what the rest of the world was like, so at age 19, I gave up the life of a lobsterman for an education. But I will never forget the feelings, smells, and experience of being one of a small group of hardy individuals who make their living from the sea along the thousands of miles that make up the coast of Maine.This page dedicated to James J. Cote, long time lobsterman in York Harbor, Maine. "Big Jim" as he was called left his mark on all who knew him.
|Page created by: Jerry Carpenter|