May 5, 2014
SEADRIFT - A cool, blue morning greets five oyster boats as they make their way out of Harbor Road marina on the last day of the commercial oyster season.
The boats break off, staking claims to their day's piece of San Antonio Bay with a makeshift buoy - an empty plastic jug tied to a bit of heavy chain.
Around their buoy, the boats begin a circular dance, like water bugs in a swimming pool.
A chain from the top of the vessel sinks into the water at a 45-degree angle beside the boat. On the end of the chain is a dredge, a metal rake pulled along the sea floor and lifted back into the boat, where oysters are sorted from barnacles, empty shells and other sea creatures.
At the beginning of the season, oyster boats packed the bay, close enough to one another to overhear the Latin music, laughter and curse words from another vessel.
Wednesday, crews on the five remaining boats watched one another, guessing who would be the first to call it quits when dredges full of mud and empty shells caused captains to do the math: There weren't enough oysters to cover the cost of fuel.