With daylight savings and the act of springing forward, my intended 830am clam dig was really more of a 7am gig. Nobody likes early mornings in my household, especially not on weekends. It takes a lot to wake me up. I set an alarm 20 minutes before I want to wake and then another for 10 minutes later and then a third for the actual time. The first two alarms are good practice and intended to help ease me out of deep sleep. I’ve tried the whole snooze option on my iPhone, but I’m seldom functional enough to hit the correct buttons.
But I don’t need an alarm on clam tides. It’s an odd phenomenon. I set my alarm as a backup anyway, but I am wide awake and dressed before the alarm sounds. And that is what happened on Sunday.
Saturday night the weatherman reported an 80% chance of precipitation for Sunday morning. None of the kids seemed enthusiastic about clamming in the rain. I let them sleep and slipped out of the rented condo alone and fired up the truck. I had listened to the rain pelt the wood decking outside my bedroom window all night, so I was surprised to see a spot of light breaking through a weepy cloud cover. I moved toward the light and drove the truck on the beach, parked, and sipped my coffee while enjoying the sunrise. I watched a few trucks, a couple of station wagons, and a rickety motor home amble down the potholed access route. Mine was one of the first rigs on the beach, an early bird.
Besides uncluttered space to watch the sun rise, being the early bird isn’t really an advantage in the actual digging of clams. One has to wait for the tide to recede enough and expose the clam beds. The lowest water mark wasn’t scheduled until 9:30am, and it only promised to be a -.5 tide. That’s not bad, but a -1.0 or lower is preferable for razor clams. I haven’t learned all the rules behind tides and tidal edibles. It seems to depend on what and where, (what I want to eat and where that species lives). With the exception of squid jigging, which requires a high tide, lower is generally better.
I sipped my coffee and watched hip-wader clad men and women congregate to the shoreline. Next to me a pack of little girls burst from a mini-van. I counted four, none over the age of ten. A baby-faced man passed out buckets, while a young mother adjusted knit caps on each blond head. I swallowed the last bit of coffee and slid into an insulated, camouflage jumpsuit paired with polka-dot rubber boots. I know camouflage and polka-dots clash. I also know I look ridiculous in my killing getup. The puffy insulation adds a good thirty pounds to my already ample frame. Such thoughts of vanity are silly, but I am a woman first, and a killer second. I could stand to be more stylish, for sure. However, there is something to be said for ending each adventure by unzipping out of the sand and slime of low tide, leaving me dry, warm, and clean in cozy sweatshirt and yoga pants.
I followed the little girls to the beach. They wasted no time. “Daddy, Daddy,” said a small voice. “I found one.” Daddy sunk a clam gun made of 4" PVC pipe over a dimple, brought up a core of sand, and plunged in for second dig. The little girls kicked at the sand cores to reveal the hidden clam. The smallest of the sisters found the prize and danced around holding a clam overhead. I wanted to edge closer, snap a picture, or just absorb some of her joy, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be a creeper. There seems to be an unspoken rule about beach territory. It’s rude to approach a group of diggers and move in on their findings. The beach is vast, and one needs to find one’s own bed of dimples. I kept my distance but enjoyed the little girls’ excitement after Daddy brought up clam after clam.
The clams were not showing in an obvious way. There were no sand donuts or keyholes, just dime-sized depressions barely visible to my eyes. I wanted to borrow one of those kids to use as a spotter. Maybe it is because the little girls were lower to the ground, or maybe it is because their eyesight is fresh and new.
The four sisters kept their daddy busy with little yips and chirps, “I found another one,” and “Dig Daddy, Dig,” and “Hurry, Daddy. He’s getting away.” I thought about my own lazy sons asleep in the condo and missed the excitement of their little boyhoods.
Daddy and the girls dug five limits, over 75 clams, before I had 10 in my bucket. Once their limits were full, the girls turned to help their mother. By my twelfth clam, the family had maxed out on the daily take, and headed back in the minivan.
I edged closer to the surf. I’m shy after getting hit and rolled by a wave in December. Surprisingly, my phone survived the roll. Well, almost. The phone works. I can text, make calls, surf the internet, and play Scrabble. But the exterior speakers no longer function. If I don’t feel the vibrations, I miss calls and messages, and I can’t listen to music or audiobooks without headphones.
Not wanting to take another dip, I moved back and forth with the tide, following it out and hustling toward the dunes on the return. It was on one of these rotations that three spurts of water in a triangular formation shot up a foot in front of me. I sunk the gun over the first spurt and brought up Clamzilla, the biggest razor clam I have ever seen. The tide was on the return so I hadn’t the time to marvel at his greatness. I sunk the gun back down in the sand and retrieved Clamzilla’s smaller but still impressive pals. I had reached my limit.
I walked back to the truck holding on to the giant clam. The largest of razors reach 6 inches in length, but this one was bigger, nearly 7 inches long and over three wide. The rest of the clams in my bucket were small to average compared to Clamzilla. I snapped his picture, peeled off my coveralls, and drove back to the condo thinking of all the ways to eat him.