wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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A Crabby Chapter from a Free Book

I know it’s a lot of reading, but I’ve put a chapter from my novel “The Wind Weeps” here, below the photo of these wonderful dungeness crabs the Captain brought home yesterday.

The chapter tells a bit about how the crabs can be caught and cooked, but it also shows the dark side of Robert’s abusive character and Andrea’s response to it.

The part about how to pick up the crabs comes directly from my own experience, but the rest is fiction.

You can find the novel “The Wind Weeps” on amazon and on smashwords.com. Just click on the book cover image at the side of the post or visit my web page at http://www.anneli-purchase.com

The e-book is still FREEEEEEEE. Sequels of this coastal novel (“Reckoning Tide” and “Marlie”) are also available.

 


Chapter 44

“I’m going to pull the crab rings. You coming?” Robert was friendly. You’d think yesterday hadn’t happened.

“No thanks. I don’t think I’d be much help. I’d only be in the way.” And I have no desire to go out in the skiff with you again. Ever!

“Well, at least put some water on to cook the crabs.”

I slammed a big pot of water on the woodstove to heat up. I grabbed the binoculars and watched him. Maybe he’d get caught in the coils and fall overboard. He stopped the boat by the farthest marker, reached for the float and started pulling the line in, coiling it in the bottom of the skiff as it came over the side. When the ring came up, he set it on the seat in front of him and gingerly grasped the two crabs that were now trying to clamber out of the netting. He tossed them into a bucket in the front of the skiff. He repeated the process with the closer ring, this time pulling up three crabs. After tossing them into the bucket as well, he pried loose a starfish that had settled on the fish-head bait and chucked it back into the water. With the second ring securely on board, Robert scooted the boat over to the dock again. I threw down the binoculars and tried to look busy as he came in the door.

“Put that pot of water on the propane stove now. Set it up on the porch or it’ll stink up the house. I’ll have those crabs ready to throw into it in a few minutes. Lots of salt in the water?”

“A good handful,” I said. “Is that enough?” He nodded and went back to the dock.

Once I had the water set up, I watched him tear the shells off the live crabs and crack their backs on the edge of the dock, breaking the bodies in two. Then he leaned over the float, swished out their guts in the water, and put the halved bodies in another pail.

“Get me another crab out of the bucket, will you?”

I reached in to pick one up, but it turned its beady black eyes on me and stood up on its back legs, front claws open, ready to do battle.

“Ah … er … how do I pick it up without losing a finger?”

“From behind. Like this.” Robert reached in and picked it up. “Fingers on top, thumb underneath. That way they can’t reach your fingers with their claws.” He tossed it back into the bucket and said, “Okay, go ahead.”

I started to reach in and again, the crab stood up tall on its back legs, holding its claws towards me. I turned my hand this way and that, trying to picture how to pick it up. Thumb on top, fingers underneath. Or was it fingers on top and thumb underneath? I made a move towards the crab and it went into action facing off with my hand whichever way I planned to grab it.

“Oh …” I wailed. “I can’t do it.”

Robert easily picked up the crab. I thought now he’d be angry again but he was trying to hide a smile. I took that as my cue to get away while I could.

“I’ll go check on that water.”

It was a brutal business, boiling a potful of live crabs even in halves, but later, when I tasted them, I forgot all about that, and how intimidating they had been when still alive. We laid the cooked crab on old newspapers on the porch to let them get a good chill. That didn’t take long in the December air.

“They’re really meaty this time of year,” Robert said, wiping at the crab juice that dripped down his chin.

“You mean they aren’t always?” I picked at the meat of a claw using the small end of one of the crab’s own legs.

“They stop eating when it’s time to molt and grow new shells in summer and early fall. While the new shell is still soft, the crab hasn’t grown enough to fit into it yet. They aren’t as meaty then as they are later.”

I let Robert tell me all about it. He liked showing off his knowledge. I had to feed that need for my own sake; keep him happy.

“I bet even millionaires don’t get to eat this much crab at once.”

“And for sure not as fresh as these.” Robert reached across and wiped my cheek. “You had a bit of crab flake there.” He smiled.

“My wrists are dripping with crab juice.” I dried my hands on some paper towel and picked up a piece of garlic bread.

“This is great bread,” Robert said with his mouth full. “Really good. I didn’t know you could bake bread.”

I almost said, “Janine taught me,” but swallowed the words quickly. Janine had baked goods for the restaurant at Hope Bay. I didn’t want to turn our thoughts back to that time. “Yup. I can,” I said lightly. “You like it?”

“Fantastic. Goes perfect with this gourmet crab feast.”

After the last crab leg was picked clean we pushed away from the table, groaning.

“That was good,” he said, “but I’m so stuffed, I never want to eat crab again.”

“Yeah, me neither.” I laughed. “Till next time.”

 


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The Maple Leaf is not “Forever”

I went to the wharf to make sure the boat had weathered the weather. It is tougher than I am, withstanding the first system of wind and rain that marks the end of this summer.

On the way home I took a small detour to dash out onto the beach for a photo. After many wipes of the lens I got a couple of wettish pics to show what kind of day it is.

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Thoroughly dampened, I drove home, but couldn’t resist taking a picture of this very old house on the way. Too bad the upper windows and the skylight are a modern style. They don’t quite go with the rockwork, but it’s still a unique house. Not just the huge chimneys, but even the walls are made of rock.

As I pulled into my own driveway a few minutes later, I saw a pretty, bittersweet sight — a maple leaf landed on my car, marking the end of summer and proving once again that, contrary to the old Canadian motto, the maple leaf is not forever.

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But it will come again in the spring.


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Lying Around

On the beach, I found some things that have been lying around for a long, long time.

This tree, for example, has been clinging to life for decades, possibly waiting to change into a lizard and join its friend farther up the beach. Something happened to the tree, perhaps as it fell over with its roots still in the ground. Maybe at that time it was much smaller and the huge boulder injured it, or prevented it from growing straight.

This may have been when the gnarly knot that we call a burl was formed. These twisted lumps have an interesting grain, and markings that make them special. Artists love to take burls to their woodworking shops to make clocks and coffee tables out of the slices they can cut from the burl.

Just look at the size of this burl. I’m sure the rock had something to do with its formation over many years.

Under this tree, the sandy soil contains countless clamshells. The shells are not in all parts of the higher beach, making me wonder why they are all together in one place.

One guess is that it might have been a midden – a place where early peoples camped and ate clams, leaving the shells  in their “dining room.”

I found a similar midden in Baja California, where the native people from decades gone by brought their shellfish from the beach to a small cave where they ate the seafood and left the shells behind.

Here is another example of the parts of the beach with and without shells, higher up on the bank.

There could be other possible explanations, but for now, I like to think it was a midden – the lunch table where no one cleared away the dishes.


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Gold River

From 1967 to 1998, the town of Gold River on the west coast of Vancouver Island bustled with activity. Then the pulp and paper mill shut down and it became almost a ghost town.

It’s a tidy town, clean and organized, but there are not even enough people left to support a large grocery store. Two small general stores provide the basics and not much more. The civic centre and police station and two schools are all modern and neat, as if they came right out of a picture book.

Several miles out of town, we found much more activity. A mermaid welcomed us to the wharf area.

Although the mill was shut down, in the remote forests around the Gold River area, logging is still going on. It leaves ugly scars for a while, but the regenerated forests do have their positive effects, providing more sunlight for smaller shrubs and trees which make better food and hiding places for small animals. You can see the new growth in sections that were cut in previous years.

Logging trucks bring the cut logs to a sorting yard near the wharf outside of Gold River.

They are then rolled down the embankment into the salt water, to be put into sections according to type and possibly by size by the dozer boats you see in the photo. They push the logs into the appropriate partitions, ready for loading onto ocean-going ships.

Without the pulp and paper mill, the logs are sent out to other countries to be processed further.

It’s sad to see the mill in ruins. Eventually it will be dismantled.

Meanwhile, the town and the coastal inlets are  destinations for eco tours and sightseeing trips by boat or by plane.

A small float plane company has set up shop near the wharf. It serves those who want a tour by air, and provides transportation for loggers flying to jobs in even more remote areas of the coast.  As well, air freight is a quick way to bring in supplies and parts for machinery that may have broken down.

Here is the grand office of the seaplane service.

Book your ticket and fly on this float plane.

We had our truck so we made our way back by land this time.


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Man or Nature?

So many times when I’ve stood on my deck and tried to take a photo of the water, I’ve cursed the hydro pole that mars the view.

This time I found the power lines an interesting contrast to the lines created by the tidal movement in the bay.

I still find the man-made power lines to be ugly, but here they emphasize the beauty of  the soft curvy lines of nature.

Man or nature? For me, it’s no contest.


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More “Whatever-they-are”s

A few years ago, I saw only brown llamas or alpacas in our neighbourhood. The other day as I drove down to the spit to take pictures of the seiners at the wharf, I passed the “llama place” and was surprised to see only one brown one.
I think this black one is new – at least “new” to me. Its buddies were of assorted colours.

I had to wonder though, if this brown one is one of the originals. They didn’t have name tags, and they wouldn’t answer when I asked. I guess it’s because they were busy eating.

This is their view. Pretty nice place to have lunch, on a little hillside by the sea. Life could be worse.

Alpaca or llama

Oh what a dilemma,

I wish I could tell,

But then, “Oh what the …heck.”


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Herring Time 2019

Two years ago to the day I did a post about the herring fishery. If you are interested you can find it here. https://wordsfromanneli.com/2017/03/08/herring-time/

At that time a fisherman lost his life working in this dangerous job.

However, the fishery goes on. The pressure is on the fishermen to set their nets and catch what they can in the short time allowed.

As seiners from all along the coast of BC gather to await the herring opening, the wharf at Comox, on Vancouver Island, is congested at this time of year. You can see the seiners in the center of the photo above in the government fish wharf, and the toothpick-like masts of the sailboats on the far right, tucked away in their private marina.

How do these boats not get tangled!?

At one time the herring fishery was lucrative, but see, below, the problem facing the herring fishermen now.

These are a few of the sea lions left after a herring season three years ago. Since then the number of sea lions has exploded to the point where the fishermen lose nets repeatedly from dozens of these giants tearing through them to get at the herring in the seine nets.

Every animal needs to eat, but the fishermen are now finding it difficult to make a living when all they seem to do is feed sea lions and pay for very expensive nets. The staggering number of sea lions that have moved in to take up permanent residence on the coast of Vancouver Island has become an overwhelming problem for the fishermen.

Solutions are hard find, as the remedies are all controversial.