Camping, Crabbing, and Freediving on the North Coast

Lindsay and I had a 3 day weekend for Veterans Day, and we decided to do some camping sort of activity for the weekend. AND IT WAS A WONDERFUL ADVENTURE AWESOME WEEKEND.

First, because I am guessing people might be wondering and I want to admit this right away: 1) We didn’t catch any crabs 2) I didn’t get any fish while freediving because I wasn’t spearfishing.

That said, honestly this was such an amazing weekend. To start, we left Saturday afternoon-ish from Oakland without any concrete plans, other then we knew we wanted to go camping and we knew that we wanted to go North. Lindsay recently took a “sea foraging” class and was excited about the possibilities of catching crabs (like I was 6+ months ago), so we figured something along the coast. Bodega Bay came to mind and so we sort of had that area in mind. We called a bunch of parks and as we expected (and I worried about!) all of the state parks we called were full and had no availability. BUT, one great lady I talked to told us about a private camp ground near/in Salt Point. I actually forget the name of the place, but she said it was a nice place that was dog friendly so we decided to head there.

Sai and the hoop net

It was a two and a halfish hour drive to this campground. When we got there, we paid the nice lady whose property it was, and she told us how to get down to the camping area. It turns out the campground was on the beach, RIGHT on the beach. It’s hard to explain how awesome this place was, but hopefully the photos at least give SOME idea. It’s a working beach, and by that I mean when we arrived there was a huge pile of dead fish heads/bodies sitting on the beach. Everybody there was either fishing or spearfishing, which if you know anything about my recent interests (spearfishing/freediving) then you’ll know how excited I was about this.

Kayaks

Anyway, we got out of our cars and started hauling our stuff onto the beach, and a nice guy (whose name I forget) came over to us (it was dark, so it was MUCH appreciated and we honestly weren’t sure where we should put our stuff) and told us that we could setup our stuff by his tent if he wanted because he had a fire already. So we setup our tent next to our new friends, and sat out by the fire. It was perfect. We were literally 20 feet from the water when the tide is in. And our friend had a good day of fishing and was (as we set up the tent) frying a fresh lingcod in a pan with butter and lemon. And he gave us half the fish, which was more then we could eat. But it was an awesome sort of night, with the waves so close (see photo above).

The next day, Saturday, we woke up earlyish (7:30ish). This was mainly because of the previously mentioned fish heads on the beach were being attacked by a large and angry pack of seagulls (the grey type). First thing up (this moment haunted us for the rest of the weekend) a guy in a small pram type boat pulled up and unloaded a crab pot with FIFTEEN of the biggest, most beautiful dungeness crabs I’ve ever seen. FIFTEEN is a lot of dungeness crab, I’m guessing these crabs would cost you a good $200 bucks at a grocery store. Anyway, it was magical.

In the tent

The rest of the day we spent driving around Bodega bay looking for a good place to throw in our one hoop net and fish with a small crab snare from a pole. The problem here was that while we have a good chunk of the items required to go dungeness crab hunting, we don’t have everything (like, for instance, a boat). So while in our minds we were picturing ourselves pulling in a trap with 15 dungeness from out in the Pacific, the reality is we were standing on a jetty with 100 (literally-ish, I’m guessing it was around 100) locals and tourists, having little to (in our case) no success.

Still, we got to see Duran beech, which was nice. I took a few photos with my film camera (which I’ll have to develop and scan to share), but it really is pretty cool to see just how many people fish. I’ve said this before (possibly not on the blog), but I feel like fishing/crabbing/sprearfishing out in California is like hunting back in Michigan, or at least there are similarities. The entire beach, which was very very busy, was occupied by people going to put out crab pots for dungeness. No families hanging out on the beach getting a tan, no teens playing catch in the water, just people hunting/fishing.

That evening, back at camp, I rented a Kayak (the lady who owns the property rents out what I am assuming is her Kayak) and attempted to paddle out past the kelp (see photo(s)) and catch us some crab. I quickly realized that even in a cove like we were in, the swell once you paddle out a bit makes it difficult to handle even the relatively light (but awkward) hoop net that I was using. Anyway, I gave it my best but had to come in relatively quickly and didn’t catch anything.

That night (this would be Sunday night, aka last night at this point) Lindsay and I had the entire beach to ourselves, and we cooked up a delicious feast of Trade Joes’ tortellini and a jar of cheap but great pasta sauce (side note: Lindsay tells me that according to a recent story on NPR, real tortellini in Italy is always served in a broth, never in a red tomato based sauce). We ate while watching the sunset, sitting on the beach. As soon as the sun was down we started a camp fire and sat for a few hours by the fire reading (second aside in as many sentences: I finished American Gods), then we went to bed at something sad like 7, mainly because even with a fire it was still a bit chilly laying on the cold sand. Lindsay was probably sleeping by 7:30pm or so, I was a bit of a night owl and didn’t fall asleep until almost 9.

Lindsay readingCampView from camp
Lindsay and I

The next day we woke up early, a bit before 7. I made a better attempt to catch us some crabs and kayaked further out. I made sure to organize the line on the crab trap before attaching it to the kayak (I had some trouble before). But, long story short, despite this, somehow the line got tangled when I threw it over and being the total newb that I am (it will not happen again and I learned a lot) I didn’t have the other end of the trap tied to my kayak, so when it went over the side and when the rope ended up getting tangled on itself, there wasn’t enough slack for the floats to make it to the surface. So, long story short the entire trap went under the water, and I felt/feel a bit stupid about it..

Kayaking
Done kayaking

BUT, after that, and as much as I honestly didn’t feel like it (at this point being slightly wet and feeling a bit depressed about the stupidity and loss of the hoop net), I went for a quick and very cold but very much wonderful swim/freedive in the cove. It was great. Nothing too crazy, but I recently took a freediving class and haven’t been freediving since then. For the record I feel like a bit of a “tool” saying “freedive” but I guess I should get used to it, that’s what it is I suppose. I didn’t go particularly deep, probably 20 feet or so, but it was deep enough that I was able to swim under/through the kelp, and long enough that I felt like I was actually practicing. Honestly the visibility sucked, and I didn’t see much other then a few smaller fish and a few starfish, but when we go back I’ll feel more comfortable heading out a bit deeper (probably with Lindsay in the kayak) and actually doing a bit of spearfishing.

Getting out of the water

After that, I took a bit of an outdoor, painfully cold shower, Lindsay (thank you Lindsay!) packed up camp as I was getting out of the water, and then we headed off! Not too much happened after that, we did a tiny bit of exploring in the towns (Bodega bay and Pantaluma) on the drive home, and that was it! Grocery shopping for the week, then we just got back from Barnes and Nobles reading a bit.

I’m very excited to head back North. Now I just need to find a reasonably priced used speargun on Craigslist, and perhaps replace our hoop net.

As always, more photos on flickr!!!