May 19th, 2003

Dancing Thru

Clams!

Finally taking a friend up on an offer that's of about 5 years standing, I was at the Pillar Point beach in Half Moon Bay at O-Dark-Thirty. (We had to wait for them to open the parking lot at 6 am, so we had coffee with him and his wife beforehand---and she went back to bed after we left.) It was a really great tide: -1.8, and still going out. The low was at 7:08.

I haven't been clamming since I was in college, and it's a lot of hard work, but I hadn't realized how much I missed stuff like that. I was always out at the beach, climbing around on the rocks, finding tasty seafood, etc. But since I've been living in San Jose, I've been out of the habit. And I was the one who once wanted to be a marine biologist...sigh. (I actually became a botanist instead, not like it's something I use in the job I eventually got in the real world, sigh again.)

But the sea had gone far out at Pillar Point, and vast flats of mudstone were exposed. Before getting started with clamming, we wandered out to the rocks by the point, and I marvelled over carpets of porphyra (a.k.a. nori), ulva, and dead man's fingers. We wandered way out by the channels where they were fishing for eels, and I spotted huge colonies of sea urchins down on the bottom. Once, you would have seen (in my own memory) huge numbers of abalone in the cracks in places like that, but now they've been overfished to the brink of extinction, and even with the huge restrictions (and locally an outright ban) on taking abalone, I doubt they will come back in my lifetime.

We headed back to the area where Jim said the good clams were. He taught me some tricks beyond looking for the syphon holes, in locating the tasty mollusks. It was hard work, digging amid the rocks (the big clams liked to nestle down next to the BIG rocks down in the bottom of the hole). I got to go fishing in the hole full of muddy water, trying to distinguish clam from rock. I got good fast. And the cherrystone types were easy. They were everywhere. But they also were grey like rock, so they could be missed. Amazingly, we worked the "tailings piles" of other folks, as the tide was coming in, and got about 8 more clams that way!

When through, we watched the tide come in, and the surfers come in from out by Mavericks, which was starting to get Really Big Surf. Mavericks kills even skilled surfers sometimes, so I could understand. Then we went back to Jim and Mary's place, and washed the haul. Twice. But I still took them home, put them in sea water, and they spit out a ton more sand, overnight.

Speaking of, it's interesting to see these little elephant-trunk syphons sticking up out of the bowl, squirting water. By this morning, they had almost drained the bowl!

I had a bowl of the little guys for lunch. I've never seeen such fat clams! And seldom tasted ones quite so flavorful. Must be the water by Half Moon Bay.
Still got to deal with the longnecks. They're still happy as clams ;-) in a bowl of salt water, tonight to be turned into clam fillets and chowder strips, unaware of their impending fate. ;-)