Lobster Traps and Crab Pots

Our earlier encounters with lobster and crab traps on the Gulf of St. Lawrence did not prepare us for what we would experience in the very near future. We departed Grande-Riviere, Quebec at 0515. Our destination was a little over 85 nautical miles across the mouth of Chaleur Bay, around Miscou Island, then to some yet-to-be identified anchorage. At 6 to 7 knots per hour it was going to be a long day.

To dodge shellfish traps and pots, we found if we stayed offshore in deeper water they were not much of an issue. Lobster and crabbing seasons vary by area, creating a patchwork of designated and inactive shellfish harvesting areas. The area we were sailing as we approached New Brunswick was off-limits for lobster traps at this time.

Miramichi Bay

It was 2050 when we finally dropped anchor in Miramichi Bay, a large estuary of the gulf divided by a line of uninhabited islands. We parked off the south shore of Portage Island in what is known as the inner bay. Portage Island at 1,114 acres is the largest island in this little archipelago. Getting there required wiggling through a reasonably marked channel for part of the way and then keeping a close eye on the depth meter to determine the best location.

The place we selected was in a designated anchorage, about 350 yards offshore. The sun was setting and the anchor set well. We felt quite confident in our selection even though it was fully exposed to the south. After our 16-hour day, we were quite happy to unwind with a glass of wine or two.

Lobster Trap On!
Lobster Trap
Catch of the Day!

We planned to get an early start the next morning and rose at sunrise to get Gaviidae ready to go. Dan was working the anchor chain at the bow while I motored forward to ease the tension on the electric windlass. We had anchored in about 17 feet of water. All was going according to plan until we actually started to haul the anchor. The windlass groaned to a stop and Dan relayed via our headsets that we must have snagged a log.

Dan dropped some of the chain back down and we altered our position to get a different angle on the “log.” We continued with different angles for another thirty minutes before we had any success. Finally, with less than 20 feet of chain left, the windlass was able to pull the anchor up enough to see what was weighing it down. The “log” was a lobster trap!


It took another couple of hours with a boat hook to untangle our anchor and chain from the lobster trap which contained numerous lobsters and crabs. Initially we thought it was an abandoned trap. After all, it was not flagged to warn off passing—or anchoring—boats. Upon closer inspection, we realized that the trap itself was tied to additional traps in a string – which explained why it was so difficult to raise. A single metal lobster trap averages about four feet in length and weighs upwards of 40 pounds empty. Any thoughts about bringing it on board to release the catch—and maybe help ourselves to a couple shellfish for our troubles—were quickly dismissed. We were concerned the weight and shape of the rectangular cage would damage the lifelines and scratch up the side of the boat. So much for any thoughts of fresh lobster!

Irritated that unmarked lobster traps were placed in a designated anchorage and our early start was long gone, we re-traced our path back out of the bay. The next order of business was to target a new stopping point for the night.


There are limited places to stop along this section of New Brunswick coastline. The shoreline is shallow, mostly suited to fishing boats with no draft. Our only option was to head for Richibucto, a fishing village about 45NM south of Portage Island along the Northumberland Strait between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

By 1800, we were still 10NM from the entrance to channel into Richibucto sailing with the main and head sails. Realizing we needed to pick up the pace to arrive before dark, we started the engine to give us a boost. By 1900, we had entered the long narrow channel along South Richibucto Beach to enter Richibucto Harbour. It was also time for the commercial fishing boats to return to port with their day’s catch. A long series of lobstermen and crabbers powered by rocking us with their big wakes.

Confusing Channel

As we continued along the channel, we were trying to figure out our position in relation to the buoys and a lighted range we could see in the distance. As we rounded the outer channel into the Richibucto River, we started to line up with range lights for guidance. At the same time we noticed that all of the fishing boats were ignoring the range lights. Thinking there must be some local knowledge that we were missing, we tripled-checked our charts and depth. Our trajectory was leading us to shallows created by the river. We were going to run aground in about 100 feet!

Adjusting course, we got back in line with the fishing boats heading in. The range lights were to be used much further into the harbour.

No Room at the Inn

We called ahead to the marina about getting a slip and some fuel as our tanks were running low. We were diesel was only available at the commercial dock. In addition, they had no space for a boat our size. They suggested that we contact the commercial harbour or tie to one of the fishing boats for the night. The pier for the commercial harbour was buzzing with activity. Refrigerated semi-trucks were backed right up to the pier and the fishing boats were arriving in a steady line to offload.

It was clear that the commercial harbour was not going to be an option and were advised by someone on one of the fishing boats that we needed to anchor out. That meant anchoring in the river across the channel from the commercial docks. We also learned that the lobster season had just opened in this area a few days earlier and the frenzy of activity was due to an approaching weather system. The fishing boats had retrieved their catch before the storm.

The Runway

The river was not very wide and much of it was very shallow. We dropped anchor along the far side of the channel, 100 yards from the docks and called it a night. The fishing boats continued to arrive well past midnight unloading under huge spotlights on the pier.

By morning, the activity on the waterfront had settled down and was replaced by high winds and heavy rain. Checking our position frequently, we were satisfied that our big Mantus anchor held us in place as we swung in the river current and were occasionally buffeted by wind. The rain gave way the following day—Friday—but the waves out on the Northumberland Strait were still rough, so we stayed put. We were stuck there for two days before things settled down enough for us to leave.

The weekend, along with the sun, brought out the recreational boats in force. We found ourselves in the runway path with some of the boaters zooming by less than 20 feet from Gaviidae! We were also the object of curiosity for families on pontoons and small cruisers. Many of them slowly drifted by or actually circled us to see Gaviidae.

Prince Edward Island

Anxious to put Richibucto behind us, we weighed anchor at 0645 Sunday morning. Summerside, PEI was our destination. After two days in wind and rain, even the name, Summerside, sounded appealing! We followed the long channel back out into the Northumberland Strait and turned right.

The distance to Summerside was just over 56NM. The sun did not join us for the crossing and we motor sailed with the mainsail and the staysail, using low RPMs to reduce the impact of the waves on our aft quarter.

Gaviidae, Gaviidae

Along the way we heard the Coast Guard call for vessels to be on the lookout for a boat in distress. We kept an eye out but the only other boat we saw was another sailboat that was tacking off a point in the distance.

About 15 minutes later, we were hailed by the Coast Guard who wanted to know if we needed assistance. They saw us on AIS and thought we might have been the sailboat reported to be in distress. Nope, we were good.

Friendly Folks

We cruised into Summerside harbour on fumes since our diesel tanks were depleted. Unlike Richibucto, Summerside had plenty of diesel and space for our boat. As we entered the marina fairway, some sailors on a docked boat yelled out that we were on the prettiest boat they’d ever seen! Dan maneuvered over to the fuel dock, and we replenished the diesel supply and took advantage of their pump-out.

Gaviidae along the inner wall at Summerside

Our assigned slip was along the wall at the head of the marina—at a sharp right angle to the fuel dock with limited turnaround space in the fairway. With some back-and-forth jockeying, we got the boat onto the dock with a crowd of spectators–mostly from the restaurant above the dock—watching in amusement. There are times when having a six-foot bowsprit can be a pain in the ass. Or it can be used to stab someone who is being a little too obnoxious with their advice!

It was all in good jest and we fielded the usual questions as to where we had come from, what the boat was, etc. At least this time, the questions were in English!


The Coast Guard that had hailed us earlier was based in Summerside and they greeted us as they strolled by. We mentioned snaring the lobster trap back in our Miramichi anchorage; they indicated their job was to take Fisheries personnel to spots like that to enforce fishing regulations and investigate reports of transgressions. The Coasties promised to send a game warden over the next morning.

A gentleman dressed in appropriate khaki green stopped by in the morning and we provided the GPS position for the lobster traps. With the Coast Guard’s forward-looking sonar and cameras, he was confident that they would have no problem finding the traps.

Mayor Bill

We needed propane for our tanks, which are used by the oven, grill, and heater. Being able to cook onboard is a nice feature and somewhat necessary! Dan was chatting with a local named Bill, who turned out to be the former mayor of Summerside. Bill is also a sailor. Meeting Bill turned out to be an excellent connection as he offered to take Dan to the store for propane.

Water Street Bakery

The next day Bill took both of us to the hardware store. It turns out that he owned a local bakery and we asked if we could stop there. He was more than happy to take us to his bakery and gave us the full tour.

Mayor Bill in his bakery

Bill insisted that we take some Rappie Pie or Rapure Pie, an Acadian dish that is made with potatoes and chicken (or mussels, clams, etc). It sounds basic but the secret is in the spices used. He gave us one and we bought another – just in case it was so good we’d regret having only one! We also bought some lasagna, to have another ready-made meal.

Bill also wanted us to try his famous cinnamon buns, but they had sold out much earlier. The staff were busy preparing a batch of cinnamon buns for the next day. Bill had them package up a couple for us. With precise cooking instructions, Bill told us to start baking them first thing in the morning and we could have fresh-baked cinnamon buns while we were sailing the next morning.

Throughout our time with Mayor Bill, he was sharing tips about where we should go, what we should eat, where to anchor, etc. He is the Summerside Ambassador!

Hot Buns!

As instructed, we turned on the oven first thing in the morning and an hour later we were enjoying delicious cinnamon buns as we dodged lobster traps on our way back across Northumberland Strait to New Brunswick! Our route took us under the eight-mile-long Confederation Bridge, which connects Prince Edward Island with New Brunswick.

Fresh-baked cinnamon buns. Yum!
Lobster traps
Lobster traps along the way
Confederation Bridge
Heading towards the Confederation Bridge

August 16-August 21, 2023 191 Nautical Miles, 1108 Nautical Miles Total 46°23.306’N  063°47.081’W

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