On Thursday, Dec. 5, I woke at six to several voices on the VHF.

“Are we going?”

“I’m ready!”

“Yeah, ready.”

And a “Yahoo!” from the captain of the STELLA. Monhegan’s lobster season had just begun.

The start of Monhegan’s six month season is usually Dec. 1 (also known as Trap Day). This year a combination of high winds and poor sea conditions prevented Monhegan’s thirteen fishermen from being able to set their traps on time. High winds create rough seas in the harbor, which make it difficult for boats to tie up at the dock.

The weather forecast for Sunday, Trap Day, included a gale warning and people were not optimistic about being able to set traps that day. The fishermen met Saturday evening at the fish house and agreed that the weather would not be good enough to begin fishing the next day. They were geared up to go fishing, but were not willing to risk harm to their boats and crew.

Sunday arrived and it did, indeed, blow a gale. It continued to blow on Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday. The fishermen met daily, but did not want to set until the weather improved. Some fishermen loaded their boats with traps in anticipation of good weather, but it did not come. In the meantime there were rowdy soccer games, a fish house party and a number of impatient fishermen on the island. When the fishermen met on Wednesday evening they agreed to begin the season on Thursday at 6 a.m.

A consequence of Trap Day being put off was that most of the people who came this year had to leave Monday to return to their lives inshore, although a few were convinced to stay. Friends and family usually come for Trap Day to help lug traps and load the boats. Those of us who were to work on the dock were concerned about the reduced number of people and that we’d be carrying four-footers until our backs broke.

Thursday morning, after several cups of coffee, I went down to the dock. It was just after seven and there were a handful of other people there. A few boats had set their first load and were coming into the dock for their second. I put my gloves on and joined everyone else in passing traps down the slip. People continued to show up to help and by mid-morning more than half the community was on the dock. I enjoy seeing those who come for Trap Day (and having their help), but I thought it was also nice to have primarily community members this year. Everyone worked hard and traps were moved as quickly and smoothly as they had been in previous years. Those that couldn’t lug traps helped by bringing calzones, baked goods and coffee to the dock to sustain the rest of us.

Trap by trap the piles on the dock grew smaller and by dark there were just a few stacks of traps and a heap of exhausted people. The work was hard, but fun and rewarding – and not just for the lobster I got to eat. Trap Day is one of the things that makes Monhegan unique and nice to be part of – even four days late.