'We're all her sons': Harbour manager Sheila Eastman is like family to North Lake fishermen
'She's always here looking after us'
Sheila Eastman is a statistician, an adviser, a traffic cop and sometimes even a nurse to hundreds of fishermen in North Lake, P.E.I. As the longtime harbour manager, she's helped guide thousands of fishermen for almost two decades in and out of the second largest port in the province.
Being responsible for the safe passage of 90 boats making three to four trips each day, she has a big job.
And the fishermen have a deep respect and affection for her.
"She's the heartbeat of the harbour of North Lake," said Jeff MacNeill. "We get here at mid-April and we put in I don't know eight, 10, 12 hour days from mid-April until the end of October. And I think she's the only one here longer than we are. She's always here."
'Call ... if you need me'
Eastman is usually among the first to arrive at the harbour each morning, and often the last one to leave. Whether it's taking care of power or water problems, building permits, cleaning the entire site, or acting as liaison between buyers and fishermen.
She even plays tour guide in the summer, and says she wouldn't have it any other way.
"My phone rings pretty well 12 months of the year," she said with a laugh. "The message on my answering machine will say you know the number. Call it if you need me, if it's an emergency and we'll see what we can do."
Eastman's commitment to her work doesn't go unnoticed. Many of the fishermen affectionately refer to her as harbour mamma.
"I call her mommy," fisherman A.J. McInnis said. "She's like the second mother everybody has around here. We're all her sons around this area for sure."
Eastman says her job involves giving her fishermen a kick in the butt, or maybe a hug, depending on what they need.
"You have to deal with that many people and that many personalities and you can't please everybody all the time," she said. "You just have to sometimes have a thick skin."
Eastman says she doesn't plan to retire any time soon.
"I get up in the morning and everything's always different and it never feels like a job," she said.
Fishermen say they're fortunate to have her.
"She basically keeps us all on the go," MacNeill said. "An incredible lady. She's always here looking after us."