From ocean to plate – a fireside feast of the world’s finest seafood
The sound of the engine was faint at first and it was hard to determine the direction from where it came. But a boat soon appeared, framed by a thicket of spruce trees that ended at the edge of the cliffs below. The Bay of Fundy was calm despite the tide having already begun to recede and the vessel, with its bulging cabin and low stern, cut through the glassy water with ease. Finally it slowed and sat back in the water as those onboard began to work. Here, on the west coast of Nova Scotia where the lobster are plentiful, it was nearing the end of the season and these fishermen were making the most of the time they had left.
The lone figure in the cabin was barely discernible but for his occasional signals to the three crew on the deck. They moved in well-rehearsed harmony, first hooking a cable attached to a buoy that marked the start of the string – a group of ten or more lobster pots joined on a line. Once full they fed the cable onto a pulley that slowly dragged it to the surface, each pot emptied of their catch, re-baited and dropped overboard again, ready to entice another victim.
The skill of the fishermen meant that this work finished quickly. The boat turned and headed south to a deeper part of the bay as the first rocks appeared in the water below. Their day had only just started and there were at least 12 hours in front of them before they returned to harbour. There was also work in front of us; a mission to get 30 lobsters for a water-side feast. So we too headed south, towards Harbourville, in search of a fisherman named Kevin.
Arriving at the harbour we found Kevin working on his boat, The Fundy Breeze. In seasons that run from March to July and again from October to January he, his two sons and one other fisherman go out every other day, crisscrossing the bay to harvest the pots, changing their location depending on their success. And though this was supposed to be his day off, it barely resembled one.
Kevin has had The Fundy Breeze for 21 years, first buying the shell and then fitting it out over time. It is a proud beast and as I joined him on deck I found it bigger than I had imagined. In the cabin the smell of the engine’s diesel and grease reminded me of my Australian home and the farm machines I grew up around. So too did his stories – the parallels with those of my father and grandfather were striking, all forged through a life of honest hard work. He had been a fisherman since the 1970s and, though it could be tough at times, said it was worth it. “I wouldn’t do anything else,” he told me, “I’d keep going until I couldn’t get up that ladder anymore.” It wasn’t difficult to understand why.