Monday, April 23, 2007

Crab Races?

I have never been one for unusual treatment of animals, but I do admit to partaking in turtle races at Brennan's Pub in my early 20's in Marina del Rey. For a nominal fee you could "race" a turtle in the back courtyard of this classy joint off of Lincoln Avenue. Basically a bunch of drunks would place their rented turtles in the center of a circle. If your turtle won, you could pick your prize out of a large garbage bag - perhaps a pack of gum, some sort of contraceptive or alternate penny prize that only 20-somethings with too little responsibility would find entertaining.

But my point here wasn't to relive my glorious 20's, but rather to talk about a similar event, albeit quite a bit more family oriented, that takes place right here in my back yard annually. Yes, I'm talking about the World Famous Westport Crab Races. 2007 was the year I was finally going to attend these oft-talked-about races and see what all the fuss is about.

I bundled up the baby, and the out of town friends and dragged everyone down to the Marina District just before lunch. It was cold, even for Westport in April, and I was amazed at the crowds that show up for this event. It's held in a huge tent on the Port parking lots just between the Coho Motel and the Marina area. There must have been hundreds of people crowded into that tent, hiding from rain, and munching on the locally caught and prepared crab feed.

The crab races? A tilted table, maybe the size of a dining room table, at about a 30 degree slope. Participants place their crab at the top and then pound on the table to get their crab to slide down to the finish line. I did not elbow my way to the front to see the actual spectacle take place, but the pounding and cheering could be heard from the other end of the tent.

This is one of those "only in Westport" events that you just have to see to believe. Shellfish lovers bedecked in crab headbands, crab t shirts, crab hats, spattered in crab flesh, chowing down on the fresh steamed (or boiled?) crabs, that may well have been just pulled in from the local waters.

As an added bonus, the commercial crab fishermen "seed" the marina with marked crabs for a fun and playful "crab derby". People can drop their crab pots off the fishermans boardwalk or one of the piers and if they catch the marked crab they can win cash and other prizes.

Overall, it was a fun "coming out of the winter closet" event, and I recommend it, particularly if you're one of those crab lovers that love to get down and dirty with your lunch.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Clamming is On!

The Department of Fish and Wildlife rules the roost when it comes to saying when you can gather food and what you can gather from our local beaches, and this weekend they told us it was okay to dig for clams. I have mostly avoided this local activity for the past few years because, frankly, I wouldn't know what to do with the clams if I did find some, and I hate to waste food.

But we had out of towners and it was a beautiful day, so we gathered up the necessary clam guns (big PVC pipe things that act like a coring tool), shellfish licenses, and containers and headed out to the beach.

The trick to clam digging, apparently, is to know what you are looking for. And what you are looking for is the clam "show". Which I like to describe as air bubbles. Which is impossible to notice in the sand if you've never seen it before. Our friends Mary and Matt were joining us for this little adventure, and for the first hour that we were out, I'm pretty sure they thought they had been scammed into thinking there was something to catch. However, once we figured it out, we caught a handful of clams, enough for Matt and Mary to make a homemade clam chowder, which would put any Seattle Restaurant to shame.

I think this might be our last clam dig for the season (until fall), but when the WDFW gives us the thumbs up again, it will be Clam On!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

What is that! It burns!

This week brought some of those beautiful, sunny, seventy degree, spring days that make all of life's problems just melt away. It was a great opportunity to head down to the beach at Westhaven State Park and let Baby munch on the sand without being bundled up in a million layers.

Despite the perfect weather, the beach was, as usual, completely empty. After being down there for maybe a half hour, I bumped into one of the local real estate agents walking her dog. It still amazes me that this area is so unspoiled and underused. I know come summer I'll be wishing for my solitude, but on days like today, its a little lonely.