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Heather Thompson: “I love what I do”

By Brian Robbins

HARRINGTON, ME – It was something to watch: a living, breathing version of a well-oiled machine.

I was doing my best to stay out of the way with my camera as the 36’ Gold Digger made its way through a string of lobster gear.  The skipper and the one-person crew were making time: landing, picking, baiting, and setting back the pairs quickly and smoothly.

You know when somebody’s putting on a show for your sake; not these two.  There was no slatting, slamming, or thrashing … just fast and easy movements that come from years of experience.

I made my way from the top of the trunk down the off side of the wheelhouse and dropped down onto the deck just as the Gold Digger’s skipper threw the 36-footer’s 675-horse Scania into gear, glancing at the bottom machine.

Heather Thompson then looked aft and gave Hilary Oliver a quick nod: Hilary set the first trap back and spun around, snatching her bander up with one hand and a lobster with the other.  Heather set the second trap, nudging the helm to swing Gold Digger towards the next buoy.

That’s right: I was watching two sisters do what they’ve been doing together for years – and do it flawlessly.

Early lessons

Heather Thompson’s lobstering career began the summer that she was 10: she was the sternman for her dad, Gary Strout, aboard his 36’ Jonesporter Triple H (named for Heather, Hilary, and their younger sister Holly).

She admits to wanting to be just about anywhere other than aboard a boat at times, but, she says, “What was I going to do?  He needed me there.”

When she wasn’t in school, Heather learned the cycles of lobstering seasons first-hand – from gathering sinking rocks in the spring for setting out dry wooden gear to scraping the barnacles off the laths of those same traps the following winter.  And each summer was spent in the stern of the Triple H.

“It was always just my father and me,” she says.  “He had someone that went with him once I went back to school in the fall, but that was my summer job through high school.”

As busy as she was, Heather somehow found enough time during her freshman year to get to know…

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