The Carter Trap Shop, March, 1972

Bimbo Carter (18), Ken Glidden (17), and Ron “Luke” Carter (16), from left to right, are in the workshop building traps for the coming lobstering season. Before wire traps made their debut, lobstermen and their families spent the winter months building and repairing their wooden ones. It was a time-consuming but necessary task. Wooden traps only lasted a few years.

Lobstering and clamming were a way of life for the eight Carter children. They all dug clams to earn money for school clothes, among other things. Bimbo began lobstering with an old skiff and small traps as a boy and had his own summer lobstering business by the age of 12.

Building Wooden Lobster Traps

Catalog Number LB2005.24.10976

NANCY RUTH, May 25, 1966

Fern Carter built this boat for himself and named it for his young daughters. He fished from her for about 20 years, replacing her with another wooden lobster boat and then a fiberglass boat in 2005.

The Carter family and friends are aboard. Nancy and Ruth are sitting on the bow, and Bimbo is on the roof in this photo, taken as the inaugural ride is about to begin.

Launch Day Memories

Catalog Number LB2005.24.11000

OLD SQUAW, May 5, 1974

Carolyn Carter, Fern’s wife, swings the christening bottle for OLD SQUAW. She missed. The water had come in too far for her to get close to the bow. She climbed onto the bow and reached down to break the bottle.

Boats were always christened with a bottle of liquor for good luck. “There was never a dry launch,” Ruthie and Bimbo remember, “with plenty of liquor after the launch and plenty of food.” Launch Days were big celebrations, with many people turning out to mark the occasion.

OLD SQUAW was built for eighteen-year-old Ronald “Luke” Carter after he’d been fishing for six years, working up to 300 traps.

Catalog Number LB2005.24.10942

MARM AND PA, April 1973

Family and friends are gathered for the launch of MARM AND PA, built for 20-year-old Leonard May of Swan’s Island. The boat was 33 feet long, 10 feet 8 inches in the beam, with a 34-inch draft. Boats were tied to log cradles for the trip from the Gross Point boat yard to the launch site at “Burt Carter’s Shore” on the East Branch of the Medomak River. Maneuvering in the yard or on the shore and towing down to the launch was accomplished by truck, tractor, oxen, or a combination, depending upon how muddy the ground was.

Catalog Number LB2005.24.10830

CAROLYN’s Olds

Fern and Bimbo Carter are installing an Oldsmobile engine in CAROLYN, the lobster boat 18-year-old Bimbo started building with his father while he was a senior in high school. Bimbo paid for his boat, which he named for his mother, with his earnings from clamming and summertime lobstering from a hand-me-down skiff. He salvaged the hardware from an old boat used by his grandfather, and friends and family contributed materials and labor. He and friends and family built 300 traps before Bimbo launched CAROLYN and his lobstering business after graduating from Medomak Valley High School in 1972.

Bimbo’s Lobsterboat Carolyn

Catalog Number LB2005.24.10966

WILD WIND 2, 1977

The new vessel awaits transport to the launching site at West Waldoboro, Maine. Builders Bert Carter, left, and Lowell (Tom ) Hildings, right, prepare the cradle for the 2-mile drag. WILD WIND 2 was the first craft built by owner-fisherman Hildings, who had learned the craft five years earlier by helping veteran Gus Skoog build his WILD WIND 1. At this time, Bert was also a novice to the boat building trade; he started helping his brother Fernald Carter in the winter of 1975-76.

In the foreground sits a nice round bottom skiff; to the right is the pile of cedar edgings from planking the boat.

Woods Used in Boats

Catalog Number LB2005.24.3430

MINA SAM

The first Carter boat shop was a low, small chicken house: a boat had to be moved outdoors before the pilothouse could be added. Their second shop, spacious and well equipped for boat building, was an old cow barn. It served perfectly until the… Read More 

Planking NANCY RUTH, 1966

Fern Carter and Ernest Poland, Sr. are planking NANCY RUTH, one of Fern’s first boats and one he’d keep, naming her for his daughters. Ernest Poland came from a family of boat builders. Fern first acquired boat building skills by working alongside Ernest until Ernest started his own business, Poland Boats.

Carter boats were built for sturdiness. While the mechanics of the boats changed over time, the design remained pretty much the same. Fiberglass lobster boats gained popularity in the 1980s. “Fiberglass platforms are hard on your legs and feet,” says boat builder Ronnie Poland, “so some lobstermen put wooden platforms on their fiberglass boats. Some older guys are going back to wooden boats.”

Construction of a Lobster Boat

Catalog Number LB2005.24.10999

“Maine Lobsterman shows New York City boys how it’s done.”

In this early 1970s photo, Burt Carter is measuring a lobster in a Carter-built boat in Bremen harbor. The minimum carapace size at the time was 3 3/16 inches. (In 2015 it is 3 ¼ inches, with a maximum length of 5 inches.) Burt’s son Paul holds up another lobster.

Above the lobster trap is the davit on which the snatch block is hung. The line connecting a trap to a buoy, known as pot warp, runs through this to the winch head (not in view–behind Burt and Paul).

To the left are the New York boys; one is holding a bait iron with redfish on it. Redfish was purchased from bait sellers and stored in wooden barrels (foreground left).

Catalog Number LB2005.24.10812

Launching MARM AND PA

Launching on the “Carter Shore” on the Medomak River took a community. The spectators didn’t just come to watch; they came to work. Here the crowd is using levers and rollers to slide the cradle as far out into the low water as they can. The rising tide will float the new vessel with some help from a line lashed to the lobster boat just off shore.

Catalog Number LB2005.24.10836

CAROLYN

Bimbo Carter’s new boat CAROLYN is shown here on her launch day in 1972 on the East Branch of the Medomak River. Gathered are the Carter family and a group of friends; Fern Carter is on the far right next to Ernest Poland, Sr., Bimbo Carter is fourth from the right, and Burt Carter is sixth from the right.

Fern’s sons Eugene (Bimbo) and Ronald (Luke) and Burt’s son Raymond also worked in the shop. Fern was happy to have customers and other friends work on his boats as well. He negotiated prices to account for owners’ labor and donations of materials. He commented to Red Boutilier:

“Some people tell me we work too cheap and other builders say they wouldn’t want greenhorns around. But a boat is more than just a well-shaped piece of wood to us. We like to put a little friendship into it. And who can put a price on friendship?”

Catalog Number LB2005.24.10986