A thick coat of fog settled over the surface of the ocean. It was a picturesque morning in late December at Pillar Point Harbor, just north of Half Moon Bay, and seagulls were perched in a row on the rooftop of the harbormaster's office.

 

I was here to fish — for Dungeness crab with a small-boat operator who supplies crab for East Bay markets and eateries. The harbor was lined with row after row of commercial fishing boats with names that were, variously, punny and sweetly earnest: Lost Claws. Lulu. The Out Cast. Pro Fishin't. Stacy Jeanne. Above one boat, there was a big yellow banner: "LIVE CRAB, JUMBO JUMBO SALE." Big crabs sold straight off the boat were going for $6 a pound.

 

Marc Alley's boat, the Ronna Lynn (named after his sister), is almost certainly the tiniest crab boat that docks at Pillar Point. It's a 23-foot-long blue and white skiff — shallow, flat-bottomed, completely open to the air. Even that description can't quite capture how small the boat looks in relation to the other fishing boats in the harbor, with their fancy amenities — like, you know, a cabin with a roof over it. Put it this way: The first time couple of times I walked past the boat, I didn't even see it. I must have thought it was a life raft or a little rescue boat that belonged to one of the larger sailing vessels.

 

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