Portland woman aims to crowdsource lobstering career

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PORTLAND — When Marianna Tracy first went lobstering 15 years ago on Cliff Island, she knew she’d found her calling.

“I just loved it, I tried it one day when I moved to the island and I fell in love with being on the water,” Tracy said last week.

She said she went out for the first time with the teacher at the island school, and then the following season he asked her to come back.

“I did a couple winters with him and then I went full time,” Tracy said.

She said being her own boss and being outside made her feel “at home on the water.”

Now Tracy, 46, is trying to raise $15,000 on Kickstarter to launch her own commercial lobstering business. She has raised more than $7,500 in the effort to become one the few hundred Maine women working in commercial lobstering.

“The money will go to overhauling or buying a new engine, an electric hauler for bringing in traps, more traps and ropes, buoys, just to kind of get going,” she said. “And if I have enough materials to start bringing in money hopefully I can fund myself in the coming years.”

As of Dec. 29, Tracy had 41 contributors on Kickstarter. She is offering several rewards to her backers, ranging from a personalized lobster trap tag to the opportunity to name her boat. The largest prize, for a contribution of $5,000 or more, is a tour of Cliff Island with a lobster bake hosted by Tracy.

Tracy said she isn’t sure if she will reach her fundraising goal in time. The funding campaign, which has been running for more than three weeks, expires Jan. 6, 2015.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.

Tracy has a 12-foot Craig Rambler with a small trap set. It’s not the typical size for a lobstering boat, she said: most people have 32 feet or larger. But she said the smaller boat will allow her to get places other fishermen can’t, like in ledges. The boat still needs to be outfitted for lobstering.

She also plans to reuse old traps and bait bags. “It’s a lot cheaper, I think why not just recycle and go green and not create more waste,” she said.

“It will position me a little bit differently, being a captain for the first time it will be a good way to start out,” she said.

Tracy said the fundraising effort has been a “nerve-wracking” experience, but that she has had plenty of support along the way.

“I feel like everyone wants to see me succeed,” she said.

Tracy came to Cliff Island by way of South Deerfield in western Massachusetts, where she worked at Yankee Candle. She said she saw an ad in a magazine her mother showed her looking for families to move out to Cliff Island.

“That’s what prompted my move,” she said.

On the island she became a stay-at-home mother, looking after her children for a year before first going out on a lobster boat.

If her campaign is successful, Tracy will join a small, but growing number of women who do commercial lobstering in Maine.

According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, there are 446 women licensed for commercial lobster harvesting, including students and apprentices, or less than 8 percent of all commercial license holders.

“There’s a lot more women lately,” Tracy said, “which is great.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Marianna Tracy, of Cliff Island, has started a Kickstarter campaign to fund her goal of becoming a commercial lobster fisherman. She said she will use the funds for things like overhauling the engine on her boat, traps, ropes and buoys.

Marianna Tracy, 46, said she fell in love with lobstering 15 years ago. She wants to go green by reusing traps and bait bags.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.