Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
ALMA, NEW BRUNSWICK — The Alma Lobster Fleet Launch may have grown into a huge party but for Mayor Kirstin Shortt this event will always be about expressing gratitude.
“It’s really a celebration of our fishermen, they go out and fish in all kinds of weather,” says Shortt, adding that this launch is the only time during the season that all the boats leave together. “It’s a major part of our economy so the whole village comes together on launch day to cheer them on and let them know their work is appreciated.”
It’s the tide that determines when the boats can leave and for that reason the fifth annual Alma Lobster Fleet Launch will take place tomorrow morning a 6:00 a.m., with approximately 15 boats hitting the waves at Alma wharf to kickoff the 2017 lobster fishing season.
It will be an early start to the day but the the people of Alma will make it worth your while with folksy music, a breakfast bar (with food donated from local businesses) and fires that will keep visitors warm. I was in Alma last year and awoke early in the morning to see the boats head out to sea with their empty traps.
It was a beautiful sight to see people sending best wishes to the fishermen who worked into the morning, skillfully loading their boats with empty traps for the journey. It was pandemonium that confused the senses, with the grinding noise and sour smell of boat engine exhaust mixing easily with the wail of bagpipes and sweet scent of baked food. I’m happy I got out of my warm bed to experience it.
One thing I truly appreciated were family members, including children, who waved and yelled encouragement to their loved ones from the shore. It isn’t uncommon for fishermen to be away for long stretches during the season so while it’s a fun time for all it can also be emotional. For tourists who choose to visit the proud village of Alma in the future, the launch of the lobster season is a chance to witness a tender and bustling slice of life on Canada’s east coast.
Alma Lobster Shop owner Brittney MacDonald isn’t just a retailer and restaurateur – she’s also related and friends with several fisherman who will be heading out in the morning. When those boats pull out tomorrow morning she will be on the shore waving farewell to her husband and brother. It’s an insane time of the year but her family wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a beginning of a busy season and bittersweet as my husband will be gone for the next three months but it’s rewarding. I think it’s important that people come and see how much effort the fishermen put into this,” said MacDonald. “As hard as it is to do the work they love their job. As hard as it is to work my husband and brother, all the fishermen in Alma, are very passionate about what they do. They know what it means to strike when the iron is hot. They feel very thankful, very blessed to be able to go out and do what they do.”
The entire population of Alma is around 250 people but during the tourism season the village draws almost 3,000 visitors per day. The launch tomorrow is expected to draw around 500 people. The village of Alma may be tiny but there are several restaurants, bakeries and bars to be explored. Herta says the lobster fishermen and the tides are great reasons to make the journey to Alma.
“It’s a unique experience to see the tides come in and out,” says Herta. “We have the highest tides in the world and it’s great to be in Alma for at least 23 hours as the tides go out for over a kilometre and then come back in. You just can’t get that experience anywhere else.”
One of Alma’s main attractions is Fundy National Park, which is located next to the village. It is here that visitors can see the highest tides in the world firsthand, explore trails and camp in pristine forests near waterfalls and walk on the ocean floor.
Fundy National Park also has activities planned to commemorate the launch tomorrow, including the Eco-Evidence Salmon Excursion from 11am to 1pm, an introductory program to the Fundy Salmon Recovery Project that is designed to save the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon. If you’re a fan of dark skies, check out Milky Way Madness at 7:30 p.m. for 90 minutes, weather permitting. Fundy National Park has some of the darkest skies around. Come take in the planets, nebulae and galaxies found in the Milky Way and beyond. Meet at the Salt and Fir Centre.
MORE ABOUT ALMA LOBSTER FLEET LAUNCH
MORE ABOUT FUNDY NATIONAL PARK