I’ve been trying for two days to upload a video of us crabbing in Westsound off Orcas Island before I move on to an update on that gaggle of beautiful women bloggers who met up back in Seattle for how-do-you-dos (more like who-are-yous?) and a gourmet dinner. It doesn’t want to work- maybe the cinematography is just too fine for YouTube. So, I’ll tell you instead and then let you see something else very cool.
After we left our best ever camping on San Juan, we ferried over to Orcas Island where we stayed at The Anchorage Inn. Whoever planned this vacation is batting a 1000, she says modestly. Any notions you have about stuffy little Victorian B&Bs with shared clawfoot tubs can go right out the window with this one. We found ourselves at the end of a long and winding road, in bright, sunny, spacious quarters perched on the side of an evergreen forested hill that dropped right into the Sound. We had a big bedroom, kitchen, bath and private waterview deck and the place comes complete with a resident gray cat named Muck, as well as bunnies, deer, bald eagles, otters and seals. Breakfasts of vegetable frittatas and fresh salmon, melon, berry shortcake with lemon curd are tucked into your own refrigerator late each day, along with continuous restocking of complimentary assorted beverages. There’s a fireplace, a private hotub down a winding hillside path- the moon! (waxing gibbous), the stars, the sound of gentle waves lapping at the shore.
One of the best things about the Anchorage Inn is the owners, Sandra and Dick and the innkeeper, Judy. Sandra is a master gardener and, even with a high deer fence all around, her garden is a vision with striking dahlias, fragrant lilies, brilliant nasturtiums and all sorts of fresh salad greens. Judy knows the island, directs you to great galleries and the sculpture garden and helps with dinner suggestions.
We had reservations to eat at The Inn At Ships Bay, based on strong recommendations from both Bonnie and Judy but long before that I was hungering for a crab roll because I hadn’t had any dungeness crab on the trip thus far. We asked Dick, who happened to be coming over to see if there was anything we needed, if he knew of a good lunch place for such a thing and he said, “Oh, well, if you want some fresh crab come out with me this afternoon while I lift some crab traps and we’ll see if we have anything.” Just like that. We had an invitation to go boating in Puget Sound on the sunniest, clearest, most beautiful day of the week and catch dinner. I won’t go on and on- let me just say that this was one of those memorable afternoons we’ll be recounting for years to come. We were joined by Dick’s fishing buddy, Bob and Bob’s two delightful grandchildren visiting from Japan, of all places. Together Dick and Bob drop the permitted number of traps on the permitted days and then go out 24-48 hours later to see what comes up. Bait consists of turkey drumsticks, Muck’s canned food (that Dick sneaks out in his pocket so as to avoid distressing Muck) and, in this case, a bit of leftover smoked salmon that we had brought over from Pike Place earlier in the week.
Crabbing is FUN! Both men said this has been a lean year; in previous years they have pulled as many as 42 keepers in an afternoon. On this day, the first three traps, brought up from a depth of over 100 feet, had about a half dozen each and of those about half had to be thrown back as undersized. We learned how to tell a male from female (along the same lines as turtles- you check the bottom shell) and how to use the calipers to measure. Females go back, any males with a body smaller than 6 inches goes back. And although I am big on catch and release fly fishing I had my fingers crossed with every trap that was pulled that there would be BIG CRABS. Bob split each one, right at the time and cleaned them, tossing the halves in an ice bucket and the top shell in a pail, in case they get stopped by officials and have to give proof of size.
The last trap did not have any crab. It had a
camel Pycnopodia helianthoides. If you use your Latin you can figure this out: we have podia (feet) and we have heliant (sun)…the size was impressive. Apparently these grow up to a meter in diameter and are voracious eaters. Bob had a low opinion of them but he was happy to let me ooh and ahh and video before tossing her back to resume eating and growing. I did not have my camera with me because it’s misbehaving (the autofocus is ferdoodled); I would have like some stills but the link has good photos, too.
About an hour after we returned, Dick came over with this beautiful offering and we enjoyed our best meal of the whole trip: fresh crab, fine Beecher’s cheeses and crackers, island heirloom tomatoes and champagne.
Still to come: the gathering of the PNW lady bloggers, some tide pool explorations and the flight home: forest fires!