Merritt Carey, Sternman

Merritt grew up spending summers in Tenants Harbor, a small fishing village on the western edge of Penobscot Bay. “My father was a college professor, we would land in Tenants Harbor in May and leave in September. I was an only child and I spent a lot of time down at the shore, hunting for crabs or tooling around in a skiff by myself,” Merritt recalls.

Merritt’s first job was delivering freshly cooked lobster to cruising boats in the harbor. “My father had given me a 13ft Boston Whaler when I was about 9, but he made sure I was going to earn some money with it. So I began working for Mrs. Miller, who ran Cod End, a fish market which also served cooked lobsters. Each evening I would go out and take orders from boats in the harbor, come back in give my orders to Mrs. Miller, she would cook them up and I would deliver them. We did lobsters, steamers, mussels, all in waxed brown paper bags, they would still be steaming hot when I delivered them. I had a lot of happy customers and I made a lot of money. It was probably the best job I ever had!”  It was working for Mrs. Miller that Merritt met the rest of the Miller family, Red, her husband, and their 9 children, the boys all fishermen.

Merritt attended Brown University and then, facing a dismal job market, and with itchy feet, jumped aboard a sailboat headed to Antigua. Merritt wound up sailing on the second all-female team to compete in the Whitbread Around the World Ocean Race (now the Volvo Ocean Challenge), and was then selected to be a member of the first all-female America’s Cup team. “I was the youngest member of both teams, the bowman and rigger, I spent a lot of time getting beat up – either up the mast or at the pointy end of the boat.” Following her sailing adventures, Merritt settled in New Zealand where she enrolled in law school.

After a few years in New Zealand, Merritt returned home and finished her law degree at University of Maine School of Law. “After all my travels and time away; I wanted to come home, back to Maine.  I like to tell people: I’ve been all around the world and I can say Maine is the best place on earth.”

Merritt practiced law for a few years and then went out on her own as a consultant; over time her consulting practice increasingly involved fisheries and rural economic development. A few years ago, hauling with Peter Miller, one of Mrs. Miller’s sons, for a piece she was writing for the MLMC, Merritt learned there was a possibility of the Miller family wharf (where she had worked as a girl) being sold. “I knew enough about rural economic development to know a locally owned wharf would be better for the community and knew the Millers well enough to have a conversation.”  One thing led to another and, with other local fishermen in the area, and Luke Holden from Luke’s Lobsters, we formed the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op; a vertically integrated co-op that works collaboratively with its downstream partners, Cape Seafood and Luke’s Lobster. “My work with the co-op is in many ways the same thing I did all those years ago with Mrs. Miller; delivering lobster directly from the fishermen to consumers; it’s just scaled up a bit.”

Merritt lives in Yarmouth, Maine with her husband and three children (Liam, 15, Madeleine, 10 and Grace, 7); the two older kids lobster-fish in the summer. “We’re lucky enough to spend our summers in Tenants Harbor, like I did when I was a girl,” Merritt reflects. Merritt recently began working for Luke’s Lobster, running the shack in Tenants Harbor in the summer (the same one she ran her delivery service from all those years ago) and helping out with marketing efforts in the offseason. In her spare time, she writes about her myriad of life experiences in her blog.