Darin sat on the end of the boom, which extended as far to the starboard side as possible. I stood in the cockpit working the tiller, hoping his weight applied to the end of a lever would help us get off the sand I had driven onto moments earlier. A certain fate awaits an eager man in shallow water, I was glad it was not me. Let me explain. Everyone runs aground, it happens, you hope when you do it is soft and on a rising tide, and, as in this case, with a favorable current. I drove into the sand as a result of not zooming in all the way on the chart plotter. While motoring through a notoriously shallow area at low tide on our return to Westcott Bay for another round of delicious mussels, I looked down at the depth finder to see the numbers 14, 13, 12, 10 in rapid succession. Quickly I put the engine in reverse, 9, 8, shudder, slide, stop. I shifted to neutral to stop the prop from turning. The depth sounder settled at 4. Bluewater draws just over 6, but call it 7 to be safe. A quick check of the prop confirmed it was in no danger. I saw the bottom, just 4 feet below the water’s surface, composed of sand and grass and not rocks – whew.
Well crap, I thought to myself. I put the engine in reverse, gave it a lot of throttle, nothing. No way was Bluewater going to budge. We were stuck; all we can do was wait. At least the tide was rising, having just been LOW. The current was pushing us towards deeper water, I sent Darin out on the boom and there we sat.
No more than five minutes later, another boat rounded the same corner. Instead of making the turn too late as I did, he made it too early. He ran aground, too, though on a rock that sits just a few feet below the surface. So far so good. All he needed to do was wait; wait for the tide to rise. His fate was sealed when, while listing 20 degrees to starboard, he gunned the engine into reverse. I swear I could hear the battle between the prop and the rock. In any encounter between prop and rock, the rock wins. I could hear the chewing noises, the distinct sound of metal being ground into little bits. Unfortunately, fate, or eagerness placed him on the rocks everyone was trying to avoid.
I don’t know if he would have been OK if he had just waited for the tide to rise. I do know that as we started to float off the sand, the depth sounder reporting 5 then 5.5, he was towed off his rock, sans prop, by a salvage company. I am fairly certain that it was a charter boat. What a way to spend vacation – stuck on a rock in a plastic boat. I was just happy that if it had to happen to us, it was in a soft spot, and I was doubly thankful that ‘Blue is made of steel, thick steel.
As we sat there, several people came by with offers of assistance. “Nope, we’ll just wait for the tide, thanks though,” was my response. Until the man with the Big Red Zodiac came around to check up on us. Darin instantaneously recognized the Texas drawl. There is a camaraderie among Texans. They seem to feel a common bond, like foreigners in a strange land.
Norris recently retired to San Juan Island and was in love with it. This particular morning he was setting his daily crab traps. After a bit of a visit he promised to find us later and bring some fresh crab. Then he zoomed off with his traps and a smile.
A while later we floated off the sand and motored into Westcott Bay. Finding a spot near where we anchored the week before, we settled down and sent Darin off to the shellfish farm at the head of the bay. The mussels ended up being a flop. Gluttony got the better of us. Too many mollusks in too small a pot.
As the sun was setting, true to his word Norris returned in the Big Red Zodiac with three dogs and full crab traps. After tossing back all but the bigger males, “it is illegal to keep females and self defeating to eat the smaller males.“ We had half a dozen tasty critters destined for the pot. Norris showed us an interesting way to deal with crabs.
You can cook crabs whole, though there will be a bit of work to get the sweet meat out of the shell. Norris showed us a better method: Find the meanest crab in the bunch. You can easily tell which one that is because he attacks your hand as you reach into the bucket. Quickly grab him from behind and turn him upside down. An upside down crab is a sleepy crab. Once the crab has settled down, with the crab’s belly up and crab eyes pointing at you, take the legs in your hands, left legs in left hand, right legs in right hand, spread the legs, holding them like handles. Find a hard edge (we used the toe rail of Bluewater), line up the sharp edge with the leading edge of the carapace and take a big swing. THWACK!
This swift motion shears the carapace off the crab. Twist the legs of the topless crab in opposite directions and shake. Crab innards will fly everywhere. Rinse in salt water and toss in a pot. When the pot is full, fill it with seawater and Old Bay seasoning and cook until the legs turn pink.
We whiled away the night under a perfect blanket of stars and talked of the ocean and adventures past. Eventually it was time for Norris and the dogs to return home. With promises to keep in touch, Norris zoomed off through the dark anchorage calling out “YeeeHaaa!!!” from his Big Red Zodiac.
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