A Day in the Life of a Special Lobsterman

Mark Sagor

Phiip Tuttle, 90 years young.

Phiip Tuttle, 90 years young.

Philip Tuttle is a self-employed lobsterman who works the waters off Harpswell, one of my favorite spots in the midcoast Maine area. His enviable commute to work consists of walking about 25 yards from his back porch to his 26 foot lobster boat, the Queen Tut. His commute might be pleasant but that is the only aspect of a lobsterman’s work that you could describe as easy.

Like many of us, Mr. Tuttle sometimes has to balance the competing priorities of work and home life. On a recent Saturday afternoon while his wife Jackie was busy on a project upstairs, Mr. Tuttle decided the time was right to slip out and check on one of his traps. So he left Mrs. Tuttle a note saying he “would be back shortly” and headed out to the open waters of Casco Bay.

As he was approaching the trap he had set out to check, he steered a little too close to shore and hit a ledge and the Queen Tut immediately began sinking. It went down so fast that Mr. Tuttle didn’t have time to reach a life jacket but he managed to grab a buoy and swim to a nearby island.

If you have ever vacationed in midcoast Maine you know that the water is still frigid in June but Mr. Tuttle still managed to swim safely to the tiny island. Once he got there however, he still had to clamber up some very slippery and jagged rocks that were encrusted with barnacles and his shins and arms were seriously torn up in the process.

So there he found himself, laying on a small remote rocky island on a Saturday afternoon: freezing cold, exhausted, bleeding and hoping for a quick rescue. Meanwhile, Mrs. Tuttle finished her project upstairs and came down stairs to begin cooking dinner and found the note from her husband.

A search party was launched (including some of the 9 Tuttle children) but because they were looking for the Queen Tut, which was almost completely submerged, they couldn’t find Mr. Tuttle. With only 90 minutes of daylight left they decided to call 911.

I am happy to report that they eventually did find Mr. Tuttle that night and transported him to the local hospital where he received treatment for his cuts and bruises and was discharged.

I have been withholding an important piece of information: Mr. Philip Tuttle is 90 years old. He says he is ready to get back to his lobstering when the Queen Tut is repaired. Mr. Tuttle reminds us that you are fortunate indeed if you love your work because it keeps you young and keeps you centered.

I appreciate this story for another reason as well. I had a birthday last week and one inescapable fact about birthdays is that on that day you are the oldest you have ever been in your entire life to that point. Sometimes that’s a difficult fact to contend with. We may feel “old” even at 30 or 40 or 50. Years later you look back and realize that you were much younger than you felt at that birthday moment. Mr. Tuttle’s story reminds me of that.