Is that a CRAB?

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!

22 responses to “Is that a CRAB?

  1. Wow, your trip sounds just wonderful. The inn does indeed sound like heaven. I can hardly wait to hear about your meeting with the ladies.

  2. That is an amazing creature; I have lived here all my life, and never seen one approaching that size.(nor have I been to the San Juans-how embarrassing) I’m glad that you enjoyed our little corner of Paradise.

  3. That sunflower seastar is fantastic, and the crab lunch looks incredibly delicious. I’m so glad you had great weather up here in the mostly gray northwest. It is beautiful no matter what the weather, but on a sunny day, it can take your breath away.

  4. Pretty perfect day to be on the water catching crabs and then feasting on them later.
    Sounds fantastic … even if the crabs are not blue.

  5. I may ask you to plan my next vacation.

  6. I was so impressed with your little camcorder that I’ve put in a request for one for my birthday next month. Is it too much to hope that it will come with such a splendid fresh crab dinner?

  7. That’s just amazing how it looked just like a sunburst. What a great vacation you planned!

  8. Yet another niche you’ve mastered–Vacation Planner.

  9. I’m living vicariously with this vacation of yours. So expertly planned.

    My son attended Montessori school as a little guy. Once they took a field trip to crab. They crabbed off a pier with string and fish bait. They had a blast and learned all about the blue crabs of the Gulf.

    We stayed in a B&B one night in Seattle, in the Queen Anne District and it was wonderful. Not the old stuffy ones of the past.

    Looking forward to more stories.

  10. You know, Vicki, I am not even remotely a camper, but this vacation of yours has me panting for something similar. You can plan my next trip, okay? I want to see one of those sea stars in person!

    Thanks for the visit and the wise words. I’m glad you’re home, and I look forward to the next post (as always).

  11. You know how to vacation, vicki! Have you considered opening up a travel agency? Or better yet, a niche service to fellow bloggers? ๐Ÿ™‚

    It’s ALMOST enough to get me to consider camping ….

  12. Crabbing is one of my all time favorite things to do! Glad you enjoyed your trip and are home again safe and sound.

  13. I have now turned officially “green” with envy….. heaven on earth…. relaxation…. no storms…. cool…. fishing… and here I sit with boxes.

    Sooooo glad you had a wonderful time… looks like Rich did too. He will let you plan all your vacations from now on.

  14. BTW, when I saw my mom in that had and sunglasses…. the first thought that popped into my head was……”Maxine”! I thought the resemblance uncanny.

  15. Lucky… I am so jealous. Next time Rich is off on one of his extended work things, if you want to go off on a travel adventure, perhaps you could take me along as your bag girl? I’d be happy to oblige. Or even if the two of you go off on a travel, I’d be happy to tag along to help out. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Hi, Vicki,

    I’m the other Vicki who comments on Beverly’s blog. She told me about your having moved your blog from Typepad (which I use) to WordPress, so I came over to look.

    Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a reference to Orcas Island! We go there every year, but we stay at Cascade Harbor Inn, on Rosario Bay. The Inn is not the lap of luxury–no whirlpool, no refrigerator, but a neat balcony and a view that we claim as our own!

    If you never did get to the Inn at Ship Bay, make a commitment to yourself to go there on your next visit. We long for the food, there, 51 weeks out of the year! Geddes (owner/chef) is just the best, and the service is impeccable. Be sure to specify, unless your an early diner, that you want a good view of the bay, and then watch for the eagles (you’ll see some vultures, too), if you’re early enough.

    Oh, yeah–I still want to know about switching to WordPress, when my subscription is close to running out.

    Thanks for the great descriptions!

  17. What a lovely vaca you’re having!

    There’s nothing a good as fresh crab and champagne!

  18. Forget the blog meet-ups, let’s all just go on vacation with Vicki.


  19. I ferdoodled one of those sea stars, by hook and line, off the dock at Newport one day long ago. I, too, sent it back. Why, I don’t know. It’s sort of a stomach turner.

    Wonderful that you having a great time. Did you know that the ocean goes all the way to China, where the Chinese throw in the pollution?

  20. Lots of reading to catch up on, but want to say HI!

  21. Blog tease… you promise stories and photos and video and then never deliver.

    Good thing we adore you anyhow. UPDATE! (nudge, nudge)

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