Steve's Tolman Project 74th page...

November 21st, 2005

Crabby Crabs and Farallon's Adventure

It's late November and all week the ocean has been flat. Folks have been skipping work and chores to get in a last bit of fishing and crabbing before the winter storms hit. And crab season is open and the commercial crabbers are on strike. This means that with a late commercial start, the recreational crabbers have a longer season. Once the commercials put out their thousands of crab pots out then the recreational season is essentially over.

Made arrangements to go crabbing and fishing on Saturday. Couple of folks turned down my invitation for crewing on the Shirley Lamar, but Dick Slavens came through. So we decided to meet at my house at 6am and then head to the Richmond launch ramp. Dick offered to use his tow vehicle so Rebecca could use our truck for errands. This was a very nice offer and I accepted.

Even though I was still out getting the boat ready at 10pm on Friday, I was somehow able to muster a wake up at about 5:15. Put the Xtra strong coffee on brew, and then hauled the boat out to the street using the PowerMover dolly. (review of this device coming)

On board I had six Danielson 2'x2'x1' crab pots (or traps) rigged for crabbing in 75-110 feet of water. These are metal crab pots with a rubber or vinyl coating. They are designed to be collapsible, but mine are rigged so they are rigid, with zip ties holding corners together. Bob Lanham was very kind and did that part of the rigging, as well as installing bridles on each pot. I added some rebar pieces to each corner for weight, and zipped them in. The pots are set up with about 140' of 5/16" Blue Steel Lead Core crabbers rope. This is a tightly wound poly rope that is tough and has just enough weight to it that it sinks. This is a good thing to have so that boats don't foul their props in your line (if it were floating on the surface). There is immense danger if you wrap your prop in a crab line under rough seas.

[insert picture of davit]

Crab pots are also rigged with buoys that have my boat's CF number burned in with a soldering iron, and also have my name and phone number as well as a strategically placed smiley face and buoy number. If my crab pot walks in rough seas and I lose it, I hope to get it back with this info if someone were to find it. Also, there can be bazillions of crab pot buoys in the area where we crab and you need to be able to easily identify your own gear.

Crab pots also have bait jars to hold some squid, cat food, fish scraps, chicken bits etc.

In short time Dick and I made our way to Richmond and launched the Jumbo. Ramp was not crowded at all, due no doubt to Salmon season being closed and perhaps due to the $10 launch fee. Down the road Berkeley is $5, and Emeryville is Free. But sometimes it pays to pick the larger facilities of Richmond and it's closer access to the ocean. Besides, I'm a man on a mission, and want to launch at all of these ramps to familiarize myself with the different layouts and ramp angles etc. Richmond has two docks and a large gentle sloping ramp. There's bathroom facilities and I think four or six wash down set ups.

We headed out after warming up the Suzuki, and after a minute or two handed over the helm to Dick, while I tended to baiting up the crab pot jars. Today's bait included some frozen squid, and some cans of Trader Joes Tuna cat food. As an experiment I only loaded one pot with cat food and filled the rest of the jars with the ccccccccold squid.

Bay was pretty flat and we made 24-26 mph till we got to the Gate. Hit a bit of the debris that was all over the place and had to stop and reverse the engine to clear the water intake.

Headed around Point Bonita, and found the ocean to be very reasonable indeed. There was a bit of a chop that limited us to a comfortable 20-21 mph. Soon we found a likely spot for the crab pots and we started dropping them in sequential order, starting up wind. The idea was to drop them in a line so it would be easy to find them when we headed back from fishing. Each pot dropped had a waypoint entered in to the GPS. Again, this makes it reasonable to find the pots in a rather huge ocean and in a area potentially saturated with bazillions of other crab pots.

Talked to Joe Hendricks on the VHF and determined we had great ocean conditions and that a trip to the Farallons was not only possible but desirable. Long range weather report was good, so we pointed the bow of the Jumbo to that distant set of Islands about 22 miles away. Nice to have a friendly face headed to the same area on the ocean that you are.

Took us about an hour to get out to the Farallons, and it was a lovely ride indeed. Mid point it got a tiny bit bumpy, but once we got to the Islands it smoothed out.

We started fishing on the South side of the Island since Joe and his crew of three were already catching Ling Cod.

The view of the Islands were breath taking, and I loved hearing the birds and constant noise of the sea lions. We drifted on the south side for a while then headed over to the North Side. We caught one Ling Cod after another. Most were undersize, but it was a hoot. We finished the fishing with two limits of Lings, Kelp Greenling, and Cabezon, as well as an Olive Rock fish, and a Yellow and Black Rockfish. While on the North Side, Dick took a short nap, and while he was sleeping I witnessed some seals being chased by what I think was a Great White Shark. Later I heard reports of similar things going on, and at least one guy lost a ling cod to a Great White. Fun!

While Dick was sleeping a Department of Fish and Game boat pulled along side, and then boarded us. Nice folks. They counted and measured the fish we had, and Dick woke up wondering what was going on.

We made a few more drifts and then decided to head back to see how full the crab pots were. It was a little bumpy for half the trip back and then it smoothed out so we throttled up to about 27-31 mph. Wasn't long before we'd found the first crab pot, and it's bounty!

We pulled up the crab pots, and started out kind of picky, throwing back legal crabs and keeping the big ones. Because of this we ended up three crabs short of two limits (10 per limit). Then we had our second boarding by DFG. They came on board and counted and measured crabs. Nice guys, but I'm thinking that perhaps a Yellow Boat is too easy to see or something. Headed over to Joe's boat where he had four limits of Jumbo crabs, and plenty more. So we pulled up one of his pots to finish out our limits.

Headed back to Richmond and was able to go almost full throttle once we got out of the strong currents heading out the Gate. We loaded up the boat, did a quick engine and trailer wheel rinse and headed home. Dick took off and I immediately put on a giant pot of water. While that was coming to a boil I pulled the boat into it's parking place using the PowerMover.

We put 92 miles on the Shirley Lamar and burned 20.05 gallons of gas. Not too bad considering that I had a heavy throttle hand when the water was flat. The Navman Fuel Meter told me that I'd burned 20 gallons, and being .05 gallons off, I'd say that I can count on the accuracy of this unit for when I go on longer trips.

It was an epic day, and while washing the boat down on Sunday, I couldn't help but giggle to myself and think that life was pretty fantastic. I can't wait to get out again. Crew??? We can still get some legal crabs!!!!

[insert pictures of crabs and cooking set up]

PS: you can see all of the pictures that Dick shot of the Farallon Trip here: More pictures of the crab pots, davit when I get a chance.

More to come...