Earlier today, NPR profiled self-described Maine lobsterman Genevieve Kurilec, who, as owner of her own lobster boat, is at the vanguard of a female incursion into the traditionally macho world of crustacean-gathering. Though Kurilec is now master and commander of the small lobster boat Hello Darling, she had to earn her thalassic independence by accepting the challenge of a crusty old fisherman who wagered her she couldn't fish in Stonington, which is like the Rainbow Road of fishing spots. Kurilec's first meeting with this fisherman reads like something out of a more modern (and pithy) <em<Moby Dick:
I was sitting in our local bar. One of the bigger fishermen from Stonington came in and he bet me that I couldn't fish out of Stonington. So I accepted the job and went with him for a year. It was a good job...I enjoyed it a lot.
Considerably more pithy. Kurilec worked as a sternman, which means that she had to work under the bloodshot, lidless sun all day hauling up 40-lb. lobster traps and re-baiting them. The job requires a strong pair of arms and her male colleagues teased her initially, but what Kurilec lacked in physical brawn she made up for by not being hungover all the time. "Women tend to be faster with their hands," she said, adding, "and we show up on time, we show up sober and we don't argue with the captain so much."
Generalizations aside, Kurilec thinks that the lethargic economy has opened some doors for women to get into the business of prowling the depths for puppy-sized crustaceans:
I think it really gave a lot of women that chance. Your son probably has his own boat and is fishing somewhere, but your daughter's home and she's willing to go. I really think it opened up a lot of opportunities. Keeping in mind there's always been women fishermen in our area, you just see a lot more of it now.
Fishing — and, more generally, going to sea — has been dominated by men since Vasco da Gama peeped at his astrolabe and told everyone that it'd just be a few more days around the cape. It's definitely refreshing to see more women start not only to join crews, but to captain their own vessels, since being the captain of a ship pretty much grants a person the most authority any single human can ever have at one time.