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Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Night at The Beach

Digging on the mud flats for crabs

Success- five Dungenss Crabs ready to cook


Star fish

A Sun Star

Star fish on the beach
Sea Cucumber

A Horse Clam
 When most people talk of going to the beach, there are visions of warm water, bikini clad beauties, sand, surf, wading in the water and swimming. I decided to join my family members the other night and we didn't experience any of the above. Instead we faced snow, wet boots, mud flats and exercise with clam rakes. On December 23 and 24 of this year, we were blessed with unusually high tides. As I've mentioned on this blog before, really high tides create really low tides about six hours later. It seems that the lowest tides are usually in the evening, as was the case the other day. Both nights experienced a minus 4 foot tide. When that happens, all the areas that would usually be covered by water are exposed, and it's the prime time for going beach combing, looking for clams, cockles, or Dungeness crabs. I have never picked up crabs off the beach before, so it was a new experience for me. On the 23rd, several members of my family and myself donned some head lamps and grabbed a flashlight and braved the elements in search of the elusive Dungeness crab. Most people just use crab pots to catch them, and there are an abundance of them on the flats behind Pitt Island. However,since I don't have a crab pot, and I didn't want to borrow one, and I had heard that you could pull them from the shallow mud on the flats behind the breakwater, and I like to scavenge anyway, we decided to give it a try. A wet, miserable, slushy snow was blowing sideways as we waded our way across a shallow but very swift running creek, trying to see where to place our next step so as to not let the water top our boots. Fortunately, once we crossed the creek, the mud flats were semi- solid so we didn't sink down too far with each step. There were several other folks out on the flats wearing head lamps or using Coleman lanterns to shed some light in the area where they were digging cockles. Personally I don't care for either cockles or clams, although I do like digging for them. I love to find things.  Anyway, a friend of ours showed us how to spot the areas where the crabs were hiding just under the surface of the mud. We searched a lot, and did a fair amount of digging, but we finally managed to find five legal crabs- just enough for Christmas Eve crab melts at my daughter Jen's annual Shoe Box Dinner. We took our catch home and cleaned it, then my daughters Jen and Autumn shucked it and put it in the fridge until Christmas Eve. On the 24th, after a delightful dinner, we headed down to the cannery to look for lead. Years ago there was a storage building for the seine nets down on the beach that burned down, so all the lead weights ended up on the beach. Over the years, the wind and waves buried some of it, where it's easy to find with a metal detector. It's lots of fun, and you never know what else you might dig up. That particular night, I guess because the tide was out so far, there were a number of sea cucumbers down at the water's edge, as well as countless star fish and sea stars. My son-in-law also managed to dig up several horse clams. They're pretty impressive. I suppose one or two could feed a family. Of course you wouldn't want to eat them off of that particular beach. After an hour or so, the headlamps started dimming and the tide turned and started to flood back in. We picked up about 1/2 a coffee can full of lead, as well as finding a brass ring, and what looks like a brass handle for a small shovel. All in all, it was a fun, productive two nights that set the tone for a delightful Christmas day. I hope that all of you enjoyed time with your family and friends and that you'll stay safe during the upcoming New Years Eve. God bless!

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