Tools & Gear

Turning a Lobster Pot Buoy on a Lathe

Today lobster pot buoys are made of a hard flotation foam and bought at marine supply stores. Fifty years ago, they were made of wood and had to be turned round on a lathe to give them their shape. Earlier buoys were carved by hand using a hatchet from squared off pieces of wood.

Lobster Pot, Wire

The wire lobster trap began replacing the wood lath pot by the late 1960s. It is much lighter and does not soak up water. Its maintenance is a matter of replacing the net funnels that direct the lobsters. It is also easier to fit with the escape hatch. Improved wire coating means that a trap can last for many seasons. The investment that a fisherman has in a trap ready to fish is about $75 (in 2009 dollars).

Lobster Pot, Square Wood

Some wood lath pots had square (actually rectangular) tops; they were easier to stack than round traps but required more carpentry work.

Lobster Pot, Round-Top Wood

Early wood lath pots had rounded tops, formed by a bent stick at the ends. The half-round shape had the most volume for the least amount of weight of the pot. It also was more stable on the sea floor. It could be built relatively quickly by the fisherman. Later pots used steam-bent round frames. Bricks on the base ensured that it landed bottom up. These traps had a limited lifespan, soaking up water and being susceptible to worm and other marine life damage. After a season of use, the soaked traps were quite heavy.

Hoop Net

Hoop nets were used in lobster fishing before wooden lath pots were developed. They were set flat on the bottom with bait attached in the middle of the hoop. These pots needed to be tended frequently, as the bait was the only thing keeping the lobster from leaving.

Mianus Improved Diesel Oil Engines

Atlantic Fisherman magazine advertisement for Mianus diesel oil engines. Diesel engines became more popular for larger fishing vessels because of their fuel efficiency and simplicity.

They were being installed into sail powered offshore fishing vessels by the 1920s, first as auxiliaries to sails. Then sails became auxiliaries to engines, and finally, as more vessels turned from dory fishing to trawling, sails disappeared.

Harpoon, Lance, and Spade

The harpoon (middle tool) was used by whalers to attach a line to the whale. The harpoon typically only went into the whale's body far enough to hold onto the whale, but not far enough to kill it. After the whale was tired out by pulling the whaleboat, the crew carefully rowed up alongside the animal, so that it could be killed using the lance (left tool). The spade was used to cut the blubber from the whale. These are reproduction tools.

Inside a Sardine Factory

Sardine packing became highly mechanized with companies in Eastport making special machinery for packing and producing tins. This shows the inside of a sardine factory, about 1920, with a hand oil filler; these were superseded by automatic fillers. The sardine cans were filled with oil before being closed and cooked. When this photograph was taken, machinery took power from belt drives coming from one large engine.

This photograph is from the Atlantic Fisherman collection.

Sintz Marine Gasoline Engine

Sintz Gas Engine Co. two stroke marine engine, 1893

Perhaps John Allen Jewett of Head Tide, Sheepscott River, read about the revolutionary new power plant introduced by Clark Sintz at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair. Jewett operated a freight scow on the river, and decided to power it with an engine instead of sail. He must have been prosperous. His new engine cost over $200, when skilled carpenters were making $2.00 a day. Jewett found out that a narrow gauge railroad was being built along the river and never installed his new engine.

Motors For Fishermen! Knox Engines

The Atlantic Fisherman, a magazine for the fisheries business, got underway in 1921. Its third issue had this cover with this large advertisement for Knox Model G Valve-in-Head Motors. Starting from small two-stroke engines in 1901-2, Camden Anchor-Rockland Machine Company of Camden, Maine progressed into making larger engines, and also began to build engine powered boats.


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