Although Roberto Flores ’12 aspires to be a librarian and plans on attending graduate school in library science next year, at the moment he’s spending his days hauling lobster traps, painting buoys, and preparing bait.
Flores is working as a sternman for Bruce King, a lobsterman from Vinalhaven, Maine. The alumnus started his job on King’s 30-foot boat, Buckeye, after graduating in May, and he plans to keep working for King through mid-December.
“The experience has been really great – just knowing I’m doing something I’ll never be doing again,” Flores said recently. “My dad is really jealous. This won’t be possible later on in life.” His dad works in San Antonio, Texas, where Flores grew up.
On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, Flores wakes up before 5 a.m., drives down to the wharf in Quahog Bay, Harpswell, puts on his foul weather gear, and baits up the boat with whatever’s available, such as mackerel or herring. Then he, King, and a third sternman steam out to sea. For the next 10 hours, Flores picks through traps, collects the lobsters inside – throwing out the ones that are too little – and sets the traps back into the water with fresh bait.
These days, early in the season, they’re amassing roughly 350 lbs. of lobster a day from King’s 800 traps, a load that’ll likely increase deeper into the season.
Flores first learned of the sternman job from a post in the student digest in early April. “I had been rejected from a bunch of jobs during spring break,” he said, with a rueful smile. “I saw that and thought, why not?” He met with King, and they hit it off.
For his part, King says he likes hiring Bowdoin students because they make for good conversationalists during long days at sea, according to his friend Peter Slovenski, Bowdoin’s head track and cross-country coach.
Flores says he wanted to take a year off between Bowdoin and graduate school, and will apply to graduate programs this fall to study digital libraries. An English major and Africana studies minor, he says he became fascinated with libraries after getting a job in Bowdoin’s Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, where he worked for three and a half years. “I really fell in love with it,” he said. “It was kind of unexpected, kind of like this.”