Boy I didn’t see that one coming. It’s been a pretty wild ride since 2019, in everyone’s lives, I’m sure. In Our House, 2020 and 2021 seemed to have taken the “Here, Hold My Beer Challenge” to an entirely new level, and not in a good way.
Sometime while the Old Man of the Sea and his brother were out salmon fishing, Crab Brother-in-Law told the Old Man of the Sea that he was retiring. Now the Old Man of the Sea and his brother have been partners since 1987. Over the years, they fine-tuned their fishing to the point where I don’t even think they talk ever while on the boats. They just knew what each other was doing automatically. It worked well.
And then Crab Brother-in-Law decided he was done and moved to Hawaii. I can’t blame him with all the ^%$#@!*&^%$#@! fishing politics in the state of California.
Crab Brother-in-Law’s new lifestyle has meant big changes in Our House. The Old Man of the Sea wasn’t planning on fishing this crab season while I was busily worrying about how I was going to keep the Old Man of the Sea entertained. Perhaps another 2,000 laying hens for my/our small egg business? Perhaps I could rent him out as a Honey Do man? Plant another 500 avocado trees? These were all on the table. Of course, he had no idea as to my plans for him, so he made his own plans.
It all started a couple of summers ago when the Young Cowboy across the road bought a small salmon boat and sold it while looking for a slightly bigger boat. This kid has always been a go-getter with more energy than me at that age. That’s saying something. His parents have been our only neighbors for many years until the town started moving closer. Yeah, we knew him before he was born.
He has his own herd of cattle, he rides, he ropes, he welds, he surfs, he mountain bikes. In 2014, he won the National Skills USA Gold Medal for welding. The kid is never still. And now that he’s 25, I probably shouldn’t call him a kid. Back in the olden days before the Old Man of the Sea fixed the road fences, I’d call the Young Cowboy to help me get the cows back in when they were up on the road. (Trust me, it was a thing. First week that the Old Man of the Sea would leave for salmon season, I’d be finding the Mamas up on the road. I once called him on the boat and threatened divorce unless he fixed the fences.)
Anyways, the kid loves fishing and he found a bigger small boat than the salmon boat — a boat with a Dungeness permit. And he needed crab pots. The Old Man of the Sea had crab pots — an entire barn full. And so the new partnership was born.
All of a sudden, the Old Man of the Sea was in his full-blown Getting Ready for Crab Season mode. It’s a fun time of year if you like a stressed out fisherman who is trying to finish up harvesting the avocados and has a wife with a growing egg business that he takes care of while she is at work. Fun Times. We were already past the Nov. 15 supposed-to-open-crab-season date (insert a very sarcastic “Thanks, Center for Biological Diversity”) and into the whale waiting period.
And then Christmas started inching closer. They needed to be outfitted. The Old Man of the Sea needed a new sleeping bag. Do you know how hard it is to find a sleeping bag in December in the middle of a pandemic? I needed to make sure they had snacks for the opening week. And they needed coffee. Apparently, the boat came with a Keurig and the Old Man of the Sea was getting particular about those little pod things. Do you know how hard it was to find the right kind of pods in the middle of a pandemic when the shelves of the store are sorta empty?
I was also trying to keep “small boat” in my head as I shopped. I know the food-carrying capacity of our boats. I know the line between “Thank you” and “Where the Hell do you think all this is going to fit?” Here with a small boat, I was in uncharted waters. And then the Old Man of the Sea told me they were going to use the backseat of the truck as a pantry. Alrighty then.
A few days before Christmas, when F&G finally gave the opening date for our zone, the Old Man of the Sea told me they were leaving early Christmas Day. We did our Christmas on Christmas Eve. I had to take the Young Cowboy aside and give him a few Old Man of the Sea Handling Tips before they left.
“Look, he needs coffee right off the bat. Don’t really talk to him until he inserts at least one cup. Then make sure he eats. He gets really grouchy if he doesn’t eat. I’ve packed plenty of Clif bars, just toss him one. If he starts snoring, you’re on your own.”
Then I felt I needed to talk to the Old Man of the Sea: “He isn’t your brother, and he’s not either of your sons. You have to be nice. You can’t be grouchy at him. You also cannot backseat drive him in his truck.” The Old Man of the Sea assured me that he and the Young Cowboy had talked about the boat spats and agreed on a plan to handle them.
And so they took off on Christmas morning. I have to say that one ranked right up there with the other Best Non-Christmas Days Ever. However, I did manage to get a nice long nap in and then went to bed at 6:30 p.m. Since it was the opening of crab season, you just know the weather had to go to hell. That’s when the newest stress-out topic came to light: “OMG it’s such a freaking small boat and the weather is crap!”
This stress item persisted for days. It’s not my normal personality to worry that much about safety. The Old Man of the Sea had stripped our boat of good survival suits and work vests and stocked the small boat, and he knows the ocean. I knew he wouldn’t take chances. It was a feeling of unease like I’d never felt before, and there wasn’t anyone I could really talk about it with. I sure as heck wasn’t going to talk to the Young Cowboy’s mom or girlfriend about it. They are new to this business. But I did decide to give lessons on Fish Wifeness to them.
That first week it rained. Like real rain. Like inches of rain. Like a real drought buster. Like we’ve been so dry, the Old Man of the Sea’s rain jacket died. Hey listen up Grundéns: Those snaps catch on crab pots and rip. The Old Man of the Sea Was. Not. Pleased. Every sweatshirt he had up there was soaked and the call came to find him a new rain jacket NOW!! Do you know how hard it is to find the perfect rain jacket in the middle of a pandemic?
Let me tell you there was none of this instant gratification shopping going on, especially since the Old Man of the Sea is a 2XL. I spent a day looking around for one, and finally our little marine store was able to come through with an order for one. The thing still hasn’t come in yet, but at least it stopped raining.
Things I’ve discovered since:
The Young Cowboy sleeps closer to my husband than I do.
The galley consists of a Rubbermaid box that they set up on a tool chest. They open the box and take out the little propane burner and cook. The ice chest on the very stern of the boat is the refrigerator. There is no sink and no water other than the deck hose. I have not asked how they brush their teeth. I have a very strong feeling I don’t want to know.
The Dragon lives. Apparently there is a little diesel heater that roars, and it has been dubbed the Dragon. The Old Man of the Sea is in serious love with it. Now keep in mind, the Old Man of the Sea and his brother have used electric blankets on the boat for years.
The Young Cowboy hears every word of our phone calls and often gives his input — 99 percent of the time his input makes me laugh.
Of course they had to sell the crab. You know the saying “When in Rome?” Well when in Half Moon Bay, one sells crab off the boat. So enter the Old Man of the Sea and the Young Cowboy’s marketing: a nice Glad trash bag written on with black sharpie — CRAB FOR SALE.
As the season progressed, they did get a tad bit more fancy. The Old Man of the Sea ordered a crab flag from Amazon. When I got the package email I was like, “Wait I didn’t order this!” Although I did buy the exact same banner in Newport, Ore., a few years ago. Being the smart Fish Wife that I am, I put two and two together. Side note: You can bet your bottom dollar that I will be swiping this crab banner for our front gate out on the road. But I digress (again).
Selling crab off the boat led to great customer stories. Take in mind that neither the Old Man of the Sea nor the Young Cowboy has really worked with the public, and let’s just say it’s not high on either of their list of things they like. There was a group of drunk housewives that came down to talk to the crabbers. One picked up a crab, and that didn’t end well. She made a few off-color comments about “Big Ones.”
And then there was the nice middle-aged lady who came down when the Young Cowboy was out doing errands and it was only the Old Man of the Sea on the boat.
“Where’s the young, good-looking one?” she asked. “The young John Wayne?”
“He’s up running an errand and will be back,” the Old Man of the Sea said.
“I’ll wait.” And so she did.
Then there was the couple that pissed off both the Old Man of the Sea and the Young Cowboy. The nice lady wanted two large crab and then proceeded to haggle over the price. They gave her a small discount. Then she came back and bought a few more crab and did the same haggling. They gave her another small discount. And then she came back again — this time with her husband — and wanted quite a few more crab with even more haggling. The guys told her no, they had already done this twice and no more discounts.
Her husband then stepped into the act. He took off his hat and showed his gray hair to the Old Man of the Sea.
“Look I work hard,” he said, pointing. “Look at all this gray hair!”
The Old Man of the Sea took his hat off and told the man, “Look I work hard, too, and no discount.” The couple still continued to argue over the price. In the end, the Old Man of the Sea and the Young Cowboy prevailed, but they lost a couple of customers in line and They. Were. Not. Pleased. With. That Couple. One day, the Young Cowboy was so fed up with customers that he went to do his laundry and he took the Old Man of the Sea’s also and considered it a great trade-off for not having to deal with people for an hour. I consider this a total win for me, and we all know this is always about me.
As this short season is winding down, I’m very happy to say the Old Man of the Sea and the Young Cowboy are still friends. That is, unless the Old Man totally backseat drives the Young Cowboy on the way home. I’m kinda looking forward to salmon season stories now.
P.S. The Young Cowboy informed me that he made the Old Man of the Sea coffee every morning. The Old Man of the Sea told me that the Young Cowboy will make a good husband someday.
P.P.S. On the issue of backseat driving, the Old Man of the Sea has finely honed this skill and there have been more than a few times I’ve wanted to push him out the door. He informed me that the Young Cowboy was a “fine driver,” and there was no need to backseat drive him. My jaw hit the ground. This has never — and I do mean NEVER — happened.