By Doreen Leggett
Not long ago, Faye Anderson was sitting in the office of the Fishermen’s Alliance chatting about her new lobster business with her dad, longtime fisherman Mike Anderson, while people across the Cape watched from home.
Faye, who owns Chatham Lobsters with her fiance Brock Bobisink, was describing how many of the lobsters that get caught in traps are set free alive, too small for example, or laden with eggs. Faye likes that about the fishery.
Her dad looked at her and grinned, adding another scenario:
“Once in a while they eat each other.”
“That is kind of what they do in their regular life,” she retorted.
The camera captured their easy camaraderie. When Faye was younger she spent a lot of time on her dad’s boat, although he didn’t lobster.
Mike remembers her getting up real early and she would often row the dory out to his fishing boat. On one tuna trip, when she was about 12, she stood on the rails and helped in an “epic battle” to bring in the big fish.
“She is a force of nature,” he said. “She is nobody to fool with.”
Still, she had no intention of becoming a fisherman, though she went shellfishing a lot, even crewed for her dad.
She had another love. Ever since she was a child she wanted to be an artist, pretty much since she was told by virtually everyone that it was a waste of time and there was no money in it.
“In high school I would skip classes and go to the art room,” she said.
Faye pursued that dream to Arizona for college (funded by her work on the water) and first tried her hand at architecture, but it wasn’t a good fit. She turned to mixed media and found she liked it. The teacher noticed her right away.
“I was the only person in the room not scared of the torch,” Faye said.
She became adept at metal work and came home to make a living as an artist. She owns her own business, Funktional Steel Art. The Tree of Life at the Eldredge Library in Chatham was wrought by her.
“I definitely missed the ocean, that’s why I came home,” she said, adding that a lot of her work has a nautical theme.
She got involved with her former husband in a spear fishing club. That led to a side career in commercial spearfishing.
She did well fishing for tautog and other species and remembers seeing big beautiful fish swimming beneath the gear of unsuspecting fishermen.
“I loved fishing. I loved being on the water,” she said, correcting herself just a bit, “I enjoy catching, not fishing.”
Faye ended up being one of the top females in the nation in spear fishing and being invited to the world championships in Venezuela.
As it turns out, she missed them because she was pregnant with her son, Ethan, who will be in the sixth grade this fall.
“He is a crackerjack fisherman, steeped in fishing,” Mike said.
Ethan also goes lobstering as much as he can. Her son doesn’t keep Faye from spear fishing; she is just wary of sharks. She even went free diving for lobster in the past, one of the quirky coincidences involving her new business. The other is her business partner, the real reason she is in it at all.
Faye and Brock both grew up, mostly, in Chatham although she is a few years older. They never met until a friend’s wedding five years ago.
Mike had met Brock a generation before, when Brock went fishing with his grandfather Charles “Tiggie” Peluso. Peluso is a legendary fisherman whose life and stories are immortalized in a book he wrote with Sandy Macfarlane, “Tiggie: The Lure and Lore of Commercial Fishing in New England.”
“Brock was this tiny kid in the boat with Tiggie,” remembered Mike. “Tiggie and I were good friends. I wouldn’t have thought it would shake out like this.”
Faye credits the whole lobster enterprise to Brock. He was crewing on the Loon Cry, out of Nauset, for the Higgins family. When tragedy struck and Joseph Higgins, who was only in his 30s, died from a terminal illness, the family gave Brock, a friend of Higgins, the opportunity to buy it.Lobstering wasn’t new to Bobisink, who also has a degree in biology from Johnson University in Vermont, but he was more familiar with gillnetting and jigging.
“The bank kind of liked the idea that I was in on it,” she said. “I dabbled, but never did it for real until Brock and I decided to get this boat.
“And now I kind of love it.”
Chatham Lobsters is doing some direct sales to bolster what has been a tough year with coronavirus clawing into profits.
They head out early, and Faye said with a laugh that it seems to take her a bit longer than Brock to get ready, but they get out around 5 a.m.
“It’s easier to go over Chatham Bar in the light,” she said.
Faye handles the community connection and social media side of the operation along with being a mate.
At the Meet the Fleet event with her father she spoke about the new “Mystery Catch of the Week” she is posting to help connect people with all the cool stuff she finds on a regular basis.
“I’m convinced I’ve caught a meteorite,” she said. “And lots of sea robins, they can be bright yellow. I’ve gotten sea horses.”
One time, Faye said, they managed to catch a 20-pound striped bass, but had no idea how it had fit into the “parlor,” as they call the larger part of the trap; a lobster is lured to the “kitchen” where the bait is placed, and when it tries to escape it is forced into another chamber, the parlor.
“It’s a fun little mystery for sure,” she said.
On a recent rainy day people were lining up at Ryder’s Cove to pick up their lobsters. And they were smiling.
They asked where the Loon Cry had her traps, how the season was going, left tips and good cheer.
One of the customers approached and said his name was Andrew Friendly.
“I’ll find you,” said Faye, looking up his order. “I think you are on page four. I remember your name.”
Another customer was Mary Falwell, who had asked questions on the Zoom call during Meet the Fleet.
Reached later, she raved about the meal she had with her husband for their 36th anniversary.
“It was a treat having those lobsters,” she said, adding they just steamed them with butter. “I know it’s a lot of work for Faye, but what an experience for people who are coming here visiting the Cape, buying lobsters right off the boat.”
Direct sales, although only a small part of Chatham Lobsters business, begets awareness too.
“People don’t realize we have a vibrant fishing industry right here,” Falwell said. “There is still a need to support them.”