By Jessica Elsemore

The select lobsters are picked and prepped for the pot.

When you reach the top of Seabury Rd in York, it’s easy to be taken aback by the view; the York River moves at a quiet pace slowly carrying seaweed and driftwood up stream. An historical wooden drawbridge with just enough room for two small cars to pass each other, connects both sides of town.  A crew of lobstermen return to their dock with the day’s catch, as seagulls circle their boat hoping for their scraps of bait. At the bottom of the hill a shingled boathouse is decorated with muted colored buoys.

At the end of a pier a sign with bright red colors reads; “Off the boat Lobsters”.

Instead of cruising by the fathers and sons fishing off Sewell’s Bridge, this time I slowed down and was lured with the price of the day’s lobsters. I was greeted by Lindsey Donnell, daughter of local fisherman Jeff Donnell.

I was looking for a firsthand demonstration on how to properly cook a lobster.

Lindsey and her co-worker Stephaney Sylvia sell and cook over 600 lobsters on a good day, I knew their expertise would be helpful. But as I inquired about their waterside storefront, I discovered there was much more to this iconic retail space.

About eight years ago this 300 year old commercial pier was sold and was to be turned into a private home leaving only a couple town docks to remain. Jeff Donnell and Mark Sewell saw this loss of commercial dock space to private home use to be a continual threat for fishermen up and down the Maine coast. A study co-authored in 2003 by Elizabeth Sheehan, Fisheries Project Director for Coastal Enterprises Inc., found among the 7,000 miles of tidal coastline between the towns of Kittery and Eastport, only 25 miles of that are of a working waterfront. Donnell and Sewell took their concerns of this ever increasing loss of working waterfronts to the York Land Trust. With the assistance of the land trust and the Coastal Enterprises Inc., they negotiated the purchase price down to $710,000 and bought the dock back with about a sixth acre of land. They preserved the working waterfront with a conservation easement, protecting it for future development.

The Land Trust’s involvement in the ownership of a working waterfront, makes it the first of its kind in the nation. Donnell and Sewell brought much attention to their concern, inspiring others in the Maine fishing industry to look into their remaining waterfronts.
It is reassuring to know that along the waterfront in York we will continue to see local entrepreneurs preserving the trade of catching these iconic crustaceans that draws so many visitors to our towns.

As I continue to travel over the hill on Seabury Road, it will be nice to see fishermen docking, seagulls soaring, and lobsters steaming for many generations to come.
With the help of Lindsey and Stephaney, Here is how you properly cook a Maine lobster:
Bring approximately 4 inches of water with 2 TBL of salt to a rapid boil in a large pot. (If you can use seawater that is best -minus the 2 TBL of salt) Plunge lobsters head first into water. Return to rapid boil for 15-18 minutes. Add additional 5 minutes per additional pound. Remove from water and enjoy!

Jessica Elsemore – Writing and Photography

References:

Jeff Clark
“The Vanishing Point”
Down East May 2007

The Mt. Agamenticus To The Sea
Conservation Initiative
Maine Today 2004
Associated Press

6 thoughts on “How Lobster Saved the Coast of Maine: York Harbor’s Best Local Eats

  1. I personally think 15-18 minutes will overcook the lobsters. I recently received a booklet all about lobsters and I learned so much.

    • This is a hot debate! Traditionally, Maine Cookery says to boil them for 20-25 minutes. We have also heard as low as 8 minutes. I thinks it is a gauge of size and hard versus soft shell. Any thoughts?

    • You heard it here! Straight from the source! Thanks for the feedback and hope the season is boomming for you!

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