What’s a lobster boat?

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Lobster boats are equipped with special equipment to catch lobsters in traps placed on the ocean floor. They have a large open deck, shelter, and crew quarters. The boats are powered by outboard or inboard engines and are made of sturdy construction for stability. The lobsters caught are stored in a live pit until the boat returns to port.

A lobster boat is a seagoing vessel equipped for the catch of lobster. Although their specific layout can vary somewhat, most lobster boats generally have a large open deck, shelter at the front of the boat, and a trunk cabin with crew quarters for longer voyages. Lobster cannot be caught without a license, which usually limits the number of traps or pots that can be set. Recreational licensees and new businesses often use smaller boats, typically ranging from 12 feet (3.66 m) to 22 feet (6.71 m); licensees with larger pot limits will use boats up to 45 feet (13.72 m) that can accommodate more equipment.

Side rails that slope down from bow to stern reduce the distance from the rail to the water at the rear of the boat, where pots are lifted out of the water. Smaller boats may be powered by outboard motors, but larger boats usually have inboard engines, either gasoline or diesel. Older lobster boats may have solid wood construction, but modern boats often have fiberglass-coated hulls. Lobster boats are work boats and rely on sturdy construction for stability; some even flood the keel with seawater while in the water to improve that stability.

A lobster boat is equipped with special equipment to make your job easier. A hydraulic trap carrier is a necessity on a busy lobster boat, as is a live pit where hundreds or even thousands of pounds of live lobster can be stored until the boat returns to port and the catch is sold. Storage containers are also required for the bait, usually a fish such as herring. The largest boats can start running with hundreds of pounds of bait.

Lobsters are not caught as fish, but are instead set in specially designed traps and placed on the ocean floor. These are specially constructed cages that make it easy for the lobster to get in and out, although the undersized lobster should be able to get out easily through the cage openings. Several pots are attached to each other with a rope and their location marked with buoys at each end. When the pots are checked, a marker buoy is raised on the lobster boat and the rope is attached to the hydraulic trap carrier, which transports the pots on board. Each pot is emptied, with the legal lobster stored in the pit alive and the illegal lobster, both undersized and oversized, returned to the ocean alive and unharmed.

Once emptied, the lobster pots are stacked on the deck until the entire chain of pots, called a trawl, is emptied. The pots are re-baited and the trawl, which can weigh hundreds of pounds when the pots are empty, is returned to the water. The boat is driven forward as the final buoy and first pot are dropped into the water; the remaining pots are “dragged” into the water by the weight of the falling trawl. This procedure must be managed by crew members and can be dangerous, with hundreds of feet of rope snaking rapidly across the deck. Some lobster boats operate trawls of approximately 40 pots in a space of up to 1 mile (1.61 km) between the two marker buoys.

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