Aboard the Irish Lass

2010 - 2016   |   Northumberland Strait & Bay of Fundy
It's Funny But I Don't Even Like Lobster
A lobster fishermen stands at the gunwales of his boat, ready to hook the trapline with his gaff.

I first went lobster fishing with brothers Terry and Randy Sandell in early June 2010. I spent three days with them as they fished in the Bay of Fundy aboard their boat Irish Lass, for whom this project is named. In August of 2010 I spent two more days with them as they fished the Northumberland Strait aboard Randy's boat Sagittarius. From 2011 to 2016, I made several more trips with them as they prepared their gear and fished in the Bay of Fundy during the spring lobster season. The resulting photographs document their routine as well as some of the scenery along the way.

Terry Sandell holds up a nice market-size lobster for the camera
Randy Sandell with a large market-size lobster

The Sagittarius was based out of Petit-Cap, New Brunswick, and fished the Northumberland Strait in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 25. The Irish Lass and their next boat, On the Run, are based out of Five Fathom Hole, New Brunswick, just west of the city of Saint John. Both vessels fished the Bay of Fundy in Lobster Fishing Area 36. Fishermen in LFA 36 have both a spring and fall lobster season but I only made trips in the spring.

In June, on the Bay of Fundy, the air temperature was about 10 degrees or so (all temperatures are listed in degrees Celsius) with a water temperature of around 4 degrees at the surface. In August, the temperature on the Northumberland Strait can easily be in the mid-to-high 20s with a water surface temperature around 18 degrees. One's a cold bath and the other is a hot tub! Although the weather can be uncooperative at any time of year, it was definitely more pleasant in August. I much preferred June, though, as light rain squalls and coastal fog made for more dramatic pictures.

A lobster fishermen sits on the stern of his boat as it sails to the next trap.

The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, with parts of it seeing a water level that's 16 metres (53 feet) higher at high tide than at low tide . At Five Fathom Hole, the difference between high and low tides is around 8 metres (about 26 feet). For comparison, the tide differential in the Northumberland Strait is only about 1.5 metres (5 feet). In the pictures below, you can see the difference between low tide and high tide. The tide wasn't even at its lowest when the photo on the left was taken.

Loading supplies onto the boat at low tide
The wharf at Five Fathom Hole near high tide

In 2016, Terry's son, Nick, joined the crew. Terry and I actually met through Nick, who went to school with my son. It was Terry and Randy's father who first started fishing, making Nick the third generation of lobster fishermen in his family.

A young lobster fishermen removes the trapline from the hydraulic hauler after bringing a trap on board.
The Andrea Lynn
Lobster fishing at Port Bickerton

In June 2015, I sailed with Skipper Bruce Jack and the crew of the Andrea Lynn as they fished lobster along Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore. This work was part of my artistic residency in Port Bickerton, NS, but it also forms a chapter of the Aboard the Irish Lass project.

View Project
Image Gallery

The gallery below contains a selection of photographs from my time aboard the Sagittarius, Irish Lass, and On the Run. I've included images of the crew at work, some of the sights along the way, and a few of other lobster boats from the area. Some of the images taken during my trips can be found elsewhere on the site, in other galleries, or in the Print section. Please note that the images are not presented in chronological order.

Terry asked me once why I had more pictures of Randy than him. It wasn't on purpose. The simple fact was that it was much easier to get photos of Randy on the deck than of Terry in the wheelhouse. However, I responded that "I was there to get photos of working fishermen, like Randy. All you do is drive the boat." It's a wonder he never threw me overboard!