Friday, August 22, 2008

Assateague Island Holiday

A glorious week (9 - 17 Aug) at the Chincoteague beach where Jeff (Spencer's bro) lifeguards.

Journey to the beach
Spence and I drove 7 hours to Chincoteague, joining the rest of the Clark family who had been staying at Jeff's since the week before. Chincoteague is a little town that connects to the Assateague National Park Island. Jeff has lifeguarded there for over ten years and works for the Park Service. The Clarks holiday at Chincoteague every summer.

The beach
We cycled (about 45 minutes) to the beach most days. This is considered the most beautiful beach on the east coast. Hordes of tourists descend upon its fine white sands every summer. The water was a bit too cold for me (60 deg F = 15 deg C) but it was nice and sunny.

I spent most of my time digging big holes with Courtney.

Carver, Ariana and Courtney were very brave. They boogie-boarded, dove into huge waves and somehow
avoided getting hypothermia in the frigid waters.

Spence surfed the waves in his kayak. In the pic below you can see him executing a kayak move in the background while Courtney is boogie-boarding a big wave in the foreground.

Kayaking Chincoteague Bay
Jeff works after hours with the Oyster Bay Outfitters leading kayak tours of the bay area. Spence, Ariana and I tagged along on one of them. It was a one hour sunset paddle on the calm waters of the bay area, which is like a huge nursery for fish, and great for oysters and mussels.

Three's a company
After two days, Jan, John, Carver and Ariana left. So Courtney, Spence and I continued to entertain ourselves by burying each other in sand. We also went for two of the many (free) tours run by the Park Service - the Lifeguard Rescue Demo and the Marine Explorers. The Marine Explorers was a 2 hour hands-on tour where we learnt about shore-dwelling animals. The inland marsh shore and sandy sea shore were conveniently located right across each other so we explored both habitats. Very popular with families, the kids enjoyed digging for sand crabs and clams (seashore) and sifting through mud for snails and worms, netting crabs and fish (inland shore).


Catching these blue crabs is a lot of fun. We bought these bait hooks for $3 each, and the instructions say to use chicken necks as bait. This is probably why chicken necks cost so much at Chincoteague. The Fresh Pride mart (the only grocery in town) was selling necks for $1.70 a pound. (Chicken thighs cost 89 cents a pound). Obviously I didn't buy chicken necks to use for crabbing. I bought a whole chicken, deboned it and used the bones as bait. (Smart huh?)

The crab hook
You need to push the hook through the bone firmly to make sure Mr Crab doesn't get away with the bait.

Thread meat and bone if possible, through crab hook

The bait is lowered gently into the water so as not to startle the crabs. Lower the bait all the way to the bottom. I kept some tension on the string, so I could feel when a crab pinched on the bait. Once it gets a good grip with its pincers, and is chomping at the bait, it won't let go unless it's startled. I would slowly raise the bait until just below the surface of the water (any higher and the crab lets go - doesn't like to be out of the water). A sneaky sidesweep with a long-handled net and ta-daaa we have a crab!

The unsuspecting crab is already inside the net!

The female crab (sally and sook) have 'painted nails' - bright red pincer tips, and looking on their undersides, a larger 'apron' (actually a reduced abdomen) than a male (jimmy). More blue crab ID info.

'Doncha mess with me!'

The crabbing spot was probably over-crabbed. We kept catching the same crabs that we released (too small, < 5 inches). By the fourth or fifth time we caught them again, they already had names, e.g., Jimmy One Claw, Miss Sally. Altogether, we got three crabs. These were kept alive immersed in water and in a cool place. We had delicious steamed crab for dinner. Slurp.

Home again
Our beach holiday was over all too soon. I'm now back home where I have been 'nesting' (as Spence calls it), i.e., cleaning, moving things around, arranging the kitchen and house the way I like it. Spence has to ask me where everything is now! It's all good. I'm also having a nice time working in the yard. We have 1.5 acres here with an apple and chestnut trees, blueberry bushes, grape vines, garlic, a quince bush, asparagus, etc. Except for the blueberries, everything else is suffering from lack of TLC (tender loving care). I've been put in charge of landscaping the garden and will definitely be writing more as we progress on creating our 'edible landscape'.

More soon!

P.S. Hey it would be great if you could click on any ad here and I'll get 1 cent per click, from the advertisers. Thanks!

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