It’s the most wonderful time of the year — Pacific Marine Expo. Not to be confused with the other most wonderful times of the year — opening day of Dungeness season and my birthday. Wait. Cross my birthday off that list. The Old Man of the Sea has decided that he is only going to celebrate my birthday every five years. I’ll deal with him later. But Pacific Marine Expo and the opening of crab season are linked in our area of California, so therefore, it’s a wonderful thing.

The opening of crab season is stressful and hopeful all at the same time. There’s an energy that crackles. Everything is prepped and ready to go, right down to the boat’s supply of Good Luck Snacks. The Old Man of the Sea is pretty good about managing stress, but I find that by opening day I am ready to escape.

The thing about Pacific Marine Expo — AKA Fish Expo — is that it allows me to get away on a Fish Wife  Vacation and do things that I genuinely love. The part that makes it a vacation is a) I don’t have to make coffee, b) someone comes and makes my bed every day, c) I can eat what I want, when I want (this has become more important in my life, as the last few years they have been fishing out of Morro Bay vs. traveling, due to a family health issue. I’m not cold hearted, I am just over cooking), d) I get away from my Monday-Friday job that nobody in the family seems to think I have, e) I can take a nap without a phone ringing or someone asking me to do something, and f) I always book one extra day to Christmas shop. And now you know the secret. Psst, you don’t need to tell him this either.

This year I actually left on the opening day of crab season in our area. The Old Man of the Sea called and texted me several times to sing, “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.”

Hey I didn’t pick the dates this year OK? Anyways, there were absolutely no travel problems whatsoever. If you knew my travel history with TSA and flights you would be shocked. OK, no problems until I reached the hotel. Somewhere along the way my reservations at the hotel got screwed up. I had arrived they day before they thought I was. So I just asked for a room and figured I would move my stuff the next morning — no big deal — until they told me that there were no rooms available. For the next hour and a half, I sat in the lobby trying to find a room for the night while the front desk worked to find me a room also. Apparently, the Seahawks were playing someone important and there were NO and I mean NO, rooms available anywhere in Seattle.

I texted Tall One #1 on the boat, figuring he would tell the Old Man of the Sea. He did. The next morning. I didn’t want to stress my husband out too much. Well after an hour and a half, we finally located a room out in Bellevue in a sort of sketchy neighborhood, thus breaking my #1 Traveling Alone Promise to the Old Man of the Sea: No hotels or motels in seedy, sketchy areas. Next problem, getting a ride over to the seedy, sketchy motel at the same time the game let out. Uber gets freaking expensive at times, I tell you. However, the driver got me there with only one illegal U-turn. I let that pass because if I’d been driving I would have made the same illegal U-turn. After a nice Jack in the Box dinner at midnight, I was ready to enter the Fish Wife Vacation Mode.

Early the next morning, I peeked out my sketchy motel window to see where I had really landed. And much to my surprise, next door I spied a pot shop. BING! Did you see the light bulb go off over my head? I recently discovered pot cream for Nancy New Knee (CBD for the knee replacement). Pot Cream —  the Gateway Drug for the Arthritis Generation.

So I donned my sunglasses and walked over to the shop in what I hoped was an inconspicuous manner. I entered the store and stood there wondering what to do next. The nice young man by the door directed me to a nice young girl who then explained all the various creams and oils and chocolate candies. And the prices! So much less expensive than California! I stocked up. The nice young lady at the counter put everything in a plain brown paper bag and didn’t even charge me for the bag. (In California — land of tax everything — bags are a dime.) I have to admit I felt pretty slimy. Being the Mom I am, I immediately had to call Tall One #1 to tell him of my discovery. He laughed at me. LAUGHED! It didn’t matter, I went back to my sketchy motel to get my swollen new knee high.

Now I’ll spare you the Christmas shopping details and move right on to the Fish Expo details. (OK except for one detail: I said no to the really nice Pendleton hoodie for Tall One #1. I just don’t love him $350 worth.) Now on to Fish Expo. Everyone was there, well except the California crabbers who had just opened or were thinking about opening.

Bruce Schactler from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute was holding court at their booth. If you haven’t seen their booth, you should. It’s everything that’s right about fishing. The bright handouts, the great graphics and information that show what we do and why people should eat WILD vs. farmed. ASMI also decorates the Alaska Hall with their banners and marketing posters that bring commercial fishing to life.

Wild Bill from “Deadliest Catch” was over in the Grundéns booth, and yes I made him take his picture with Kenny my Traveling World’s First Commercial Fishing Advocate Gnome. Bill gracefully consented to this, by the way. I will use the picture elsewhere to promote fishing, trust me.

I ran into another fisherman’s parents. I will not name him publicly in this story, as they dished on his childhood behavior in the way only parents can. We took a group photo and texted it to him so he knew I was getting the scoop. Rob S., are you reading this? Miss you, Rich Dragger.

There was a pack of people who were moving along like a hive of bees or a school of fish. Inside of that pack was Sig Hansen. He just looked like he needed to be left alone, so I/we didn’t harass him for a signature on our petition.

What petition? The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations was there. And since I’m a director, I was working in our booth alongside Noah Oppenheim, the executive director. Our purpose was to collect as many signatures as possible on a letter that addresses the dangers of offshore net-pen aquaculture to our fisheries and opposes a couple bad bills. It’s an issue that is rearing its ugly head again. The federation would turn around and submit the letter and signatures to Congress.

Noah also signed us up to give a program on fishery insurance, kind of like crop for crabbers. This project is in the beginning stages with Dungeness crabbers as the guinea pigs. Why you ask? Think back to the Dungeness crab closure of 2015-16, where California crabbers were closed for six months thanks to Domoic acid levels in the crab. A bit of insurance income would have been a welcome relief at that time to many. (It’s 2019, and even though the Disaster Money has been allocated, no one has seen a dime, partly driven by the government shutdown.) This approach may or may not pencil out, but if it succeeds, it could be used in other fisheries.

And after a day at the Expo come the After Parties. Actually the parties always start in the Beer Garden with the Seahawks cheerleaders, the Sea Gals. Beer starts flowing, and plans are hammered out. This year we hit the No Pebble Mine party. We cannot lose this resource. Period. Amen.

The next night we partied with the Marine Fish Conservation Network. The oysters were killer. The thing about the parties is it’s a chance to talk off the record and bounce ideas around. And when the day is all over, I get to return to my clean hotel room with the towels hung up, toilet paper on the roll and my trashy novels. Heaven, just heaven.

With a heavy sigh, my Fish Wife Vacation is always too short.

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