On July 8 I received an e-mail from the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) asking if Bruce and I knew someone who would be interested in hosting an informative fundraising cocktail party on Islesford in August. The federal government is threatening the Maine lobster fishing industry with escalating regulations that will start putting fishermen out of business in order to increase protection for a whale that does not feed in or travel through our waters. The MLA is hoping to raise $10 million over the next three years for its legal defense fund.
My first reaction was, “No way do I have the energy or desire to coordinate a large event in crazy August!” Bruce’s reaction was, “Why didn’t they just send the email to me?”
Bruce was willing to organize an outdoor party where people could hear from MLA members about the fund raising campaign. With help from our daughter-in-law, Stephanie Austin, he designed an invitation to be delivered around the island. Fellow lobster fisherman Jack Merrill helped extend invitations to people Bruce missed.
Being able to ask for help is a life skill that doesn’t come easily to many. Me included.
Soon, I wanted to join in with shopping and food prep. Bruce’s menu included lobster sliders, olive cheese puffs, and little sausages for hors d’oeuvres. Our neighbor and former sternman, Mary Schuch, baked 150 slider buns to donate to the cause.
I suggested a few more items I’d be willing to cook to round out the menu. In one afternoon I was able to make and freeze 300 olive cheese puffs. It took 33 pounds of live lobster to yield 6 1/2 pounds of meat for the sliders. At $3.50 a pound boat price, the lobster sliders were one of the least expensive yet most abundant things we served.
We were confident the two of us could handle catering the event for 75-100 people. By Thursday afternoon, Bruce had decorated the yard with buoys borrowed from several island fishermen. He strung them across the driveway like lights brightening up a cloudy afternoon. Jack Merrill set up a sound system. Joanne Thormann delivered Adirondack chairs from her yard down the street.
Our son Robin served as a runner, picking up ice, wine, beer kegs, and extra sheet pans from various spots on the island. Each time he returned we had another task for him to do. When my sister-in-law, Lynn Shirey, offered to help, I knew exactly what to ask for. She was an expert at knowing what food platters needed to be refilled or passed during the party.
At 2:30 p.m., Bruce and I were in the kitchen using every bit of counter space. Richard Howland was to pick up the MLA’s Patrice McCarron and Kevin Kelley at 4 p.m. in Seal Harbor, so we were in a time crunch. As Bruce was spreading lobster salad on the 120th bun there was a knock on the door. It was the German film crew working on a documentary on the island for most of the week.
The director wanted Bruce to stop what he was doing and come outside for ten minutes. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Bruce said he had to finish what he was doing and would come outside in a few minutes but the director continued to be pushy.
I was a little less than cordial at that point, to which she responded, “Oh, I am intruding?” She got a simultaneous “Yes!” from the two of us and finally went outside to wait. Bruce was filmed outside about ten minutes later. We’re still laughing about it now.
About 80 people showed up for the party and the information was well received. As I write, over $7,000 has been donated to the MLA legal defense fund by generous people who attended our party and/or who care greatly about seeing the Maine lobster fishermen continue to survive along with the right whales.
We couldn’t have pulled it off without the tremendous help of family and friends who stepped up whenever we asked. It was a good lesson. Being able to ask for help is a life skill that doesn’t come easily to many. Me included.
If you value having lobster fishermen in your community, if you enjoy eating lobster, if you don’t want to see this industry disappear, please consider supporting the lobster fishermen and women of Maine. SaveMaineLobstermen.org has a lot of information about the huge challenge they face and how you can donate to help. I’m asking.
Barbara Fernald lives and writes on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).