"Setting-out day": first day of the lobster-fishing season
Main-à-Dieu, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The boat's journey from workshop to water involves a series of traditions and rituals every bit as important as the steps that get it from the woods to the builder's shed in the first place. While these days the boat is lifted onto an oversized truck and driven down to the shore for its "launching," years ago, fishermen would go into the nearby woods and cut logs large enough to hold the boat, cover the logs in grease, and use them as "rollers" to roll the boat, running along ahead of it with more logs, all the way to the water. At one time, they'd never launch a boat on a Friday. (Other superstitions include: Never mention "pig" in the boat; Never turn the counter-clockwise; Never wear black socks aboard the boat; and Never launch bow first.) Nowadays, though, if the truck comes on a Friday, the boat goes in the water on a Friday.
"The Blessing of the Fleet" is an important tradition in Main-à-Dieu, as it is in many fishing communities.
Meant to ensure a safe and bountiful season, it is also a time to remember fishermen who have died, including those who have lost their lives at sea.
The entire village comes out to participate in the event, and to commemorate the dead. The local priest presides over the ceremony, which includes prayer, music, and a few trips around the harbour in the boats.
God Bless the little
Boats from Main-à-Dieu
When they go out to sea.
Protect them from the furies
And from the Stormy Seas.
Guide them and Protect them
With your Hands
And bring them back safely
To our precious Land.
Then the day before the beginning of the fishing season, the traps are loaded onto the boats so that when the fishermen get up on the morning of "Setting-out day," they just put their bait aboard and wait for the sign: at around 5 in the morning, the Department of Fisheries officer blinks his vehicle's headlights, to signal the start of the season (which, barring inclement weather, runs from May 15th to July 15th).