ZEB CAMPBELL

Zeb Campbell - Photo by Bill Trevaskis

"I feel that in growing up here and as you grow up here, you have a connection to this place."

My name is Zebadiah Daniel Campbell and I have lived on North Haven my whole life, which is 21 years. My father’s actually from New York. My mother’s family goes back, as far as I know, like the late-1700s. So, that I would say is my real island tie and my real island connection.

I feel that in growing up here and as you grow up here, you have a connection to this place. I think that no matter where I go I will move back here. Yeah, I don't think there's anywhere else that I want to permanently live, I guess. It's interesting, I feel like have a responsibility in trying to make this place a better place. I can't really do that if I'm gone, you know?

 
 
 
 

Zeb (center) on his father's boat with his uncle (left) and his father (right)

 

My grandmother, as well, she’s just like a rock and an extreme inspiration to me in my life. And the thing that I always think about is, she went in the stern working for my grandfather for 16 years, or maybe more I might even have that number wrong. But it was just her in the stern, every day, hauling traps. And is one of those people who it just doesn’t matter if they’re hurt or down. She just works, she’s just like a work horse. And on top of that she’s just like a really nurturing grandmother.

I mean, like, when I’m driving by at nine, ten o’clock at night and I see her outside with a flashlight like working in her garden. Or like, I’ll go up and pull over on the side of the road, watch her like pushing the lawn mower when it’s 90 degrees in August and I’ll go up and be like, “Grammy do you want me to–do you want a hand?” And she’s like, “No, no, no. I like to do it.” She’s like, “I want to do it.”

I was 14 when I bought the boat. I knew when I first bought the boat that I wanted to name it after her but I also had a lot of people be like, you should name it after your grandmother. Because she has–had never had a boat named after her.

Zeb with his grandmother, Cheryl, at the unveiling of his boat named after her – Photo courtesy of Faye Cooper

It was pretty emotional. She, yeah, it was pretty emotional. I had the boat up in the yard and I got the plastic name printed out at a shop in Rockland and put it up on her and my dad covered it with a sheet. And then her and my grandfather came over, we were going to do like a little unveiling and my dad like pulled the sheet off and she started crying and it was a really nice moment. Yeah, it was super sweet.

My relationship with the fishing industry. So, I’m a ninth generation on my mother’s side and a second generation on my father’s side, which I think is one thing that really strengthens my relationship with it.

Zeb, age 12

Yeah, I was twelve years old, was the first summer that I went with my father in the stern, working for him and I was filling bait bags and banding lobsters. And I just stood in the stern and I did it in the summers in between school. And I remember really, kind of immediately, that I fell in love with being outside, being on the water and also the camaraderie of working on a boat. I really loved it.

Yeah, I was 12 years old when I first started, 14 when I bought my own boat for $14,000 and I bought it in cash. So, that was one of the first things where I was like, yeah, I could get used to this, you know? When I first bought my boat and started fishing my own traps, it was like the first feeling of independence that I ever had because I was pretty young.

And I remember one day, vividly. I got up at 4 o’clock in the morning. I hauled all 150 traps and they were all loaded, just like had a really big day. I was by myself. And it was just the most beautiful day. I came back in and, what I would do was, I would steam out in the middle of the Thoroughfare and just stop and I would run my deck hose and clean the boat down. And I remember Foy Brown steaming by me and Foy works at Brown’s until four or five o’clock and then in the summertime he goes out and hauls his traps after he gets done work. So, I remember that one day because Foy steamed really close to me, just to check me out and see what I was doing and he gave me a big wave. And the look on his face was, sort of, like, a look of approval and I really enjoyed that.

Yeah, I guess my relationship with lobstering is a love for the ocean. It’s a love for being my own boss. I really enjoy that. And I really love being a fisherman. I really love being a part of the fishing fleet. I love working on the water. It’s great.

And it’s how a lot of my family have made it through their lives, just like the lobstering industry. So, I feel pretty strongly about it.

I have spent a lot of money and a lot of time into making it my career. Yeah, I mean, I’m into it pretty deep now. I got my own boat it’s a 37-foot Repco and I got 700 tags, so I’m almost up to the 800-tag limit and I’m putting every dime I’ve got back into the business. So, yeah, I’m pretty deep into it now.

 

After selling the Cheryl Lee, Zeb purchased his current fishing vessel, the Lineage – Photo courtesy of Sarah Xiao

 

Leta Do you ever get nervous or anxious about the future of the lobstering industry?

Zeb Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of controversy about what is going on in the lobstering industry. Everything from what we’re catching for poundage, what we’re getting for price, different diseases we see in lobsters, the migratory patterns that are going on with them, water temperature that’s changing, acidity levels in the water that’s changing. I guess the main reason that I am nervous about it is because there is all this change coming on and some of it’s good and some of it’s bad. And so, you–I don’t really know what to expect.

It’s interesting talking to old-timers, fisherman that have been in the business forever. There’s one fisherman from North Haven who’s like, you better get the hell out of it right now. And there are other fisherman who are like, we’ve seen ebbs and flows in this fishery for the past hundred years and there’ll always be lobsters around. And I would say, there are always going to be lobsters around. We can’t kill every last one. These little things are tough and we’ve also regulated the fishery enough to a point where we do take care of the stock.

But I’m also looking for other stuff to try to diversify my skill set in a way. And also, like I said before and my concerns for the future of the fishing industry, I don’t want to get caught being like, this is all I know how to do, so I can’t do anything, so what the hell am I going to do? And then start building up from square one. I’m trying like right now, sort of, actively trying to prepare myself for anything.

 

Zeb fishing with his older sister, Abi – Photo courtesy of Kaleb Campbell

 

I would say that that is the one, like, the one bad thing about growing up in a small community is that there’s a lot of judgement. There’s like a lot of judgement because you are stuck on this rock with 350 other people and everyone knows what everyone else is doing, which sometimes is great but also sometimes it can be super stressful. A lot of the times it's good to be able–you’re held accountable, which I think is good. But a lot of the times, it's just pushed over the edge. And now with Facebook, like, can get horrible. It can be bad and hurtful.

And one of the best things about being in a small community is that you have all of these people to look out for you. But if you do something that everyone else doesn’t like, then it’s the worst place you could be because then you feel like all of these people don’t like you. Like, no one has your back and then it’s almost feeling more–you feel more isolated.

So, I graduated 2014. First thing I wanted to do, and I knew that I wanted to do it, was to leave for a little while. So, I took a gap year and I went traveling with a friend of mine in Australia and New Zealand. And then I went to Hawaii for like a month and a half. I left in December and didn't come back until March. That was the first time I'd ever left the island for an extended period of time, for longer than like a week, like two weeks, which is kind of crazy to think about.

When I went on my trip, to Australia and New Zealand right out of high school, I remember I was leaving, my dad was driving me down to the ferry boat and this has always stuck in my head. I don't know how it came up but he said something that was like–man, I wish I could remember exactly how it went. But, it was pretty much like, you know what happens when you leave. Is like, this feeling of, like, oh, you left us. It’s kind of like, you might be one of us when you come back. 

I remember my dad saying that to me and I was just like, what the fuck. Like, I don't want to go anymore, you know? I mean, I obviously went and I remember it was like stepping out of a bubble. I was like, holy shit this is crazy out here. Had the most incredible time of my life and I was like, wow, I gotta–there's like a world that I want to see.

I remember when I came back from my trip and, when someone, or when people don’t see you for a little while, they ask you like, where you been? Like, what you been doing? And it was dead of winter when I came home and I was blonde and really tan and everyone was like, where the hell have you been? And I told them, I told everyone what I was doing and a lot of people were like, wow, that’s really fucking cool.

No one thinks of me differently for having gone on a trip for a couple months, you know? But, if I were to move away from the island and then come back five years later, it might be a different story. It's interesting as well when you factor school into that. When someone leaves to go to school, no one pins going to school against you. It's not like, you left and went to school, we hate you now. And I feel the same way about traveling. When you go and travel for a little while and then you come back and you went to see different things. That's OK too. But like, if you move away and then you come back, I think there can be judgement like cast upon you for that. 

I've thought about moving away at times. Most of the time what I, kind of, always fall back to is that, if I were to move away, what would people perceive as me when I come back?

Zeb with his cousin, Kennedy

 
 

Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the Campbell family