JUNE 6, 2016

CRAB SEASON

 

So anyway, now that crab season got off to such a late start, the boats have been hauling in what they could with some despair for the time is short and soon there will be a halt to catching any more as the water becomes too warm. People think this global warming thing is a joke but it is not, especially when your livelihood depends on Mother Nature playing along with customary rules. The oceans are warmer and that means that the already abbreviated crab season must be cut short as warm waters mean all sorts of bacteria start to taint the flesh of the crabs making them unsafe to eat. So there you go -- what you thought was a political football affects the food you put on the table in front of your family and this causes fishermen like Pedro Almeida some grief.

In addition, functions that are used to serve trays of crab-infused delectables have to scramble. Nobody wants to resort here in California to the same old canapes their aunts served up in places from which all of them had come. Heaven forbid that deviled eggs, ambrosia, and strange gelatin molds appear on the table.

Mindful of crab's dear price, Mr. Howitzer organized a crabbing expedition on his yacht The Indomitable. The yacht had a small crane for getting heavy stuff on and off the boat and this he used to drop a couple large crab pots after anchoring off Angel Island with the Cribbages and the Blathers on board drinking gin and tonics made by versatile Dodd. Mrs. Blather, who sometimes appeared in walk-on parts at the Lamplighters sang numbers from The Pirates of Penzance with Mr. Cribbage while Dodd provided accompaniment on an electric keyboard.

It was Mr. Howitzer's idea to drop about a half dozen crabs directly into the pot and perhaps dole out a few more in magnaminity to his friends in a demonstration of Baronial largesse.

Things went swimmingly out there on the sparkling sea under the bright sun and in the sheltered lee of the island from whose steep slopes deer and goats observed the party, with the party knocking back gin and tonics and gin rickeys and gin sours and gin martinis and they were all good and schlockered out there on the bounding main in a short while and Mrs. Blather had be extricated from the bouy ropes into which she had somehow entangled herself while singing"What ought we to do?".

Things went swimmingly for about half a day until Jose operated the winch to haul up a big basket of dripping sealife and Mr. Howitzer realized that the stew pot provided by Dodd was far too small to hold the catch.

The Indomitable was a pleasure yacht and so not equipped with a freezer hold to drop and store commercial catch. The light duty crane, designed more for lifting luggage and the occasional propane tank, strained under the weight of the loaded crab pot and so as Jose brought the boom about, the corner of the pot knicked the gunwale, tipped and opened up its loose door to dump about 30-40 crab along with several manta rays and a small tiger shark onto the deck, the miniscule cookpot, and the yacht-party.

A good deal of trouble then ensued.

Mr. Blather, crab-bitten and howling leapt off of the boat into the water as the others flailed away in a savage, atavistic battle for survival ruled by the ancient Lex Talionis, the Law of the Claw. Dodd and Mrs. Blather got up onto the wheelhouse roof while Mr. Howitzer beat the creatures with the steel crank used for winding the mainsheet. A large dungeness took hold of Mr. Cribbage's ear and Mr. Howitzer took a mighty swing to obliterate the body of the crustacean which failed to let go even in death, causing Mr. Cribbage to weep and moan.

Jose got the idea of using the pushbroom to shove most of the creatures down the steps into the sleeping quarters where they scampered about and fought one another.

There remained the second crab pot, which Mr. Howitzer was loath to lose on account of the cost, so with Jose armed with the pushbroom, Dodd with a mallet plus a set of tongs and Mr. Howitzer with the maritime riot gun, Jose carefully brought up the second pot while the rest of the party cowered on the roof of the wheelhouse.

Jose maneuvered the pot so that it dumped most of its load near the entrance to belowdecks. He and Dodd then got busy shoving the angry snapping creatures down to join their bretheren on the bunks while keeping clear of Mr. Howitzer who blasted stingrays and small sharks with the shotgun, managing to somehow inactivate the ship's engines when one blast went through the decks to cut the powerlines.

When all was momentarily still, Dodd plopped down with the empty crab pot swinging overhead and gunsmoke drifting, Mrs. Cribbage's sundress in tatters, blood smearing the gunwales, crab and fishparts and shotgun shells littering the deck amid shattered martini glasses, and the yachting party weeping on the roof of the wheelhouse and the sound of furious activity going on below decks and he said, "I say, we 'ave made quite a hames of things 'aven't we?"

It was up to Dodd to radio for assistance, which he did in his usual unflappable manner. "I say Coast Guard! Although we have the month of June, it appears we have a Mayday here."

When the Coast Guard arrived, sending out a dingy to check on things, the officer noted the crab pots and the living contents of the berth and then he asked Mr. Howitzer if he had a license for taking crab.

"Afraid not," Dodd said.

"Then this is going to cost ya," said the officer.

When they got back that evening by way of a tow to the marina, Mr. Howitzer spoke to Dodd. "Dodd, be a good man and clean all of this up. I am taking the car as I am thoroughly, as you say, knackered."

The yachting party then left leaving Dodd and Jose to sit contemplating what next to do about a hold full of crab as well as the mess. Dodd arose wearily and removed a bottle of Beefeaters from the ice chest. He found also two glasses which had not been broken and he gave one to Jose.

"Slainte", he said.

As the clock ticked over to the new day the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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