During the summer season, Kiwi Ferris and his son, Buster, make the morning trek from their cozy beds to the cold and wet boat ramp at the Boat Haven in Port Townsend. They do this without fail, …
During the summer season, Kiwi Ferris and his son, Buster, make the morning trek from their cozy beds to the cold and wet boat ramp at the Boat Haven in Port Townsend. They do this without fail, every day they’re allowed to do so, during the summer crabbing season.
During last weekend’s rendition of their morning ritual, Buster backed his brown F-350 down the ramp, boat in tow, while Kiwi managed the ropes. The tide was low, about a foot and a half below zero, when the boat touched water.
This dance of father and son was well-rehearsed, not a word was spoken.
A few moments later I was aboard.
Kiwi got the 53-year-old motor putting and backed the boat from the loading area.
Buster had said they’d caught nine crabs the day before, so my expectations were high.
With the morning sun shining down on us, we motored our way from the Boat Haven across Port Townsend Bay to their chosen crabbing spots. Two pots for Kiwi, two for Buster.
With Kiwi at the helm, we came upon the first pot but I missed catching her by about one foot.
He circled the boat around and Buster reached over the railing to grab the float.
Kiwi popped up from his captain’s chair and started pulling in the rope with Buster. He then wrapped it around a motorized pulley and let the motor do the rest of the work. A few seconds later, two crab rose up from the murky depths, some 60 feet below.
“Holy expletive!” I shouted, “Those are huge.”
The pair continued working side by side until the pot had been emptied.
The bait restocked, it was soon back in the water.
The second pot was bupkis. The third was packed with Dungeness and Rock (red) crab.
Red crab are a waste of time, according to Buster, “Not enough meat for the work you’d have to put in.”
Buster and Kiwi made quick work sorting through the keepers and had that pot emptied in less than a minute.
They found one worth keeping - that’s three by my count, but we saved the best for last.
Two big, beautiful and delicious Dungeness.
Before making our way back to the ramp, we cleaned the catch.
Mounted on the side of the boat is an ingenious contraption. It looks like a dough scraper flipped on its back and screwed to the railing of the boat.
Buster grabbed the first crab by the two legs furthest from the claws. He centered it on the blade, rocked it back and, crack! Split it down the middle. In what must have been less than 15 seconds, the crab had been fully dispatched.
Father and son gave me the honor of cleaning the last three.
Their instructions were clear: grab it firmly by the two back legs and keep clear those front claws.
A crab in hand, I placed it on the blade but unfortunately for the crab, I was in charge of its dispatch.
What may have been four or five rocking motions and with that job done, I reached under the right side of its shell, grabbed it by the claws and ripped.
The top of the carapace stayed fixed to the blade while I took the right half of the crab and shook its innards back into the sea. Another rip to the left side, two more shakes, a pluck of the gills, and the crab was no more.
Kiwi took his time on the ride back.
As father and son looked toward the shoreline, they chatted about the wedding they’d be attending that afternoon.
- Lloyd Mullen, publisher