Monday, July 6, 2015

The Great Clam Dig

(Homegrown Adventure Series: #2)

Basically any adventure that involves a boat is one that I want to be involved in. So, while visiting friends in Scituate, Massachusetts over Memorial Day weekend, I did just that. 

This boating adventure was to be in the form of clamming and I couldn't have been more excited to dig the shit out of some sand. Oh, and eat them too. (The clams that is).

The things I knew about clamming before:
- there was a special rake involved.
- they would put up a good fight.
- these clams were about to be my bitch.

We embarked on a gloriously sunny day on the South Shore on my friend's wooden skiff. Which was cool in and of itself, on account that HE. BUILT. IT. 

I was on a homemade boat about to hunt for clams, and we had a multitude of important provisions like chips and peanut M&M's on board. It was going to be a grand day. 

As we left the harbor, the picturesque shore glittered in the sun, looking supremely New England-y. I was a sucker for a good scene, and this was one of them.

My friend, the Captain, (who refused to wear a Captain's hat at my request, but was a brilliant Captain nonetheless) regaled us with tales of the open ocean while bringing us out to a specific buoy. He spoke of an old challenge that was sort of a legend around these parts. 

The 'mile marker buoy challenge' to be exact. One that involved staying overnight perched on the exact buoy in front of us. NAKED. This wasn't all. This particular buoy sits directly outside the mouth of the harbor, meaning the level of humility just reached epic status. Every commercial fisherman (not to mention every boater on the water as well) leaving in the early hours of the morn would drive by, laughing their asses off at you. A cackle inducing sight for sure.

Apparently a well known fisherman in the area has presented this as an ongoing challenge to any takers. I don't know if there could be any winners in this situation...but if the challenge is completed, you get $1,000 and to re-clothe yourself. Up the ante and I might try it. By like millions.

Story time was over, and we headed towards the North River. We trolled past all the cliffs, which were creatively named; 1st Cliff, 2nd Cliff, 3rd Cliff, and 4th Cliff. 

Captain hadn't officially named his boat yet, but liked the idea of incorporating "wagon" into the name. So, naturally, I took it upon myself to call the nameless skiff Wagonwagon because two wagons is more fun to say than one. 

Wagonwagon moseyed through the narrow waterways where many people were already setting up shop for the day on the big strip of sand that would dwindle down in square footage as the morning hours passed, and the tide came in. We pulled up and hopped out, rake in hand. Nevermind that we only had one rake between three of us. Captain showed us the clamming ways and we were ready to hunt. 

A tisket a tasket, clams in a basket.

We looked for holes in the damp, hard sand, knowing that somewhere beneath it, was a clam waiting to be chased. And what a chase it was!

Initially I employed use of the rake, digging it in and wiggling it about to loosen the sand. But most times ended up cracking the clam shells. After a few occurrences of this, I ditched the rake all together and just went into full on dog digging mode. They were sharp, so cautious digging. 

My fingers scraped the hard clam shell. At least I hoped it was a clam. Urgency flooded my thoughts as I knew this clam guy was going to try to escape me. 

"You gotta be quick!" Captain warned me as I dug around the clam quickly and chased it down, down, down further into the sand. How far could it go?! Surely it would have to stop somewhere? 

Just as I was pondering this thought, I was squirted in the face by a strong, single stream of clam spit. (Pretty sure that's the technical term) AKA concoction of ocean water mixed with whatever else is in the clam. Gross. Well, now I was more motivated than ever to liberate this guy from the depths of the sand. 

I came in from the side, digging around it and then quickly closed my hand around the shell, and plucked it out of the sand. Ah ha! Gotcha! The feeling of catching that GD clam was oddly satisfying. I wanted to dig them ALL up. Every. Last. One.

We moved around the clamming flats for a while, working in silence except for the sound of the water lapping up on the sand, digging, and the occasional yelling of "I think I've got a 5 pounder!" It was relaxing labor. If that makes sense.

I ventured down closer to the water, where the sand was more wet. Then, for a moment, I thought I was sinking. And then I realized that I was. This sand was no joke. I thought of how my eight year old self had seriously feared quicksand would be a much bigger issue in life. No, but really, I was sinking. I was calf deep in dark sand and it was time to move. 

After a bit, I invented a new method of attack. I like to call it the moat & tower technique. And I was about to storm the castle. I nailed the rest of my clams this way. I dug a trench, moat style around the hole, where I was sure the clam was hiding. Then, I dug around it until it created a tall tower of sand with the clam still inside. Sneak attack from underneath--clam never saw it coming.

While wrapping up, we surveyed the area. We did a top job of tearing it up, as the sand was riddled with large holes.

I couldn't wait to feast our bounty! We'd be grilling these bad boys up later that night amongst loads of other food.

I've got a lovely bunch of...clams.

The day wasn't over yet. We pulled up on the famous strip of sand for a few hours before the tide rolled in and it disappeared like some sort of magic. We were at The Spit. Boat after boat lined up one after another, and people dotted the sand, playing games, tanning, and just basking in the first warm days of summer. The whole day felt like a truly quintessential New England experience.
My finger nails were gritty with sand wedged underneath, I was slightly crisp from the sun, and full of cheddar and sour cream & onion chips. It was a fulfilling feeling, and a fantastic way to kick off the summer season.

Perfect way to end the afternoon? Drinks at The Galley Kitchen & Bar, of course.

**The clamming flats in Scituate are open until Memorial Day, and a permit is required, amongst other regulations as well.