Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Notes from Astoria - Never Turn Your Back on the Sea

Crab season is in full swing ... everyone around here in Astoria is in a state of drool over dungeness crab. It's been a rocky crab season, what with crab fisherman strikes and foul weather, but now things are temporarily under way. And the sea has received her first sacrifice of the season in the form of the Catherine M, all hands presumably lost.

Catherine M Story

After being out of work most of the season, my partner B did work a few times unloading the crab boats in heavy rain and foul weather. His knee-high waders split in several places. I was looking all over the place for new ones, and whined about this to one of our pals, Bobby Wilson, a local artist and former fisherman. As chance would have it, he actually had a pair that had belonged to one of his brothers, and miraculously, they fit B to a T. Crisis resolved, once again with the help of the ever-resourceful Bobby Wilson! There seems to be no end to how helpful and kind people are here in Astoria.

But back to the subject of the treacherous sea ... another fisherman pal, Rodney, told me a clamming story. Razor clams are tricky little critters, as they are normally around the tide line, and they can whiz around under the sand. But everyone around here loves these clams, so they go out in droves to dig them when it's allowed.

Razor clams are certainly unlike the clams I am familiar with in New England, who have the good grace to stay put. And therein lies the problem ... you have to go to the tideline and take a risk to get these damn clams. You have to keep one eye on the sea for rogue waves, and one eye on the clam air-holes and your clam-digging tool. If the clam decides to go dancing off somewhere, you have to move your tool (which looks like a post-hole digger) to try to trap it, but meanwhile you'd better be damn sure you are watching the ocean, too. If a rogue wave comes up, the rip-tides are so vicious that if you wind up in water even up to your knees, you can easily have your feet pulled out from under you, and get pulled out to sea.

Rodney told me the tale of a fisherman pal of his, and his wife, who decided to go clamming one day. They were so busy chasing clams, that even though they both knew better, they did not keep an eye on the sea. A rogue wave did, indeed, come in, and hit them. He made a grab for his wife, but only managed to grab a piece of her sleeve before she was ripped away from him. He dug in his clam-digger, held on, and managed to not get pulled out to sea, but all he was left with was a piece of her sleeve. Her body was never found.

Like they say around here, never turn your back on the sea. And don't turn your eyes away from it, either.

Astoria Photografpix

1 comment:

Gary said...

Be careful. And enjoy your clams.