We’ve been feasting, here on our beach. The forage is good — fiddleheads, goosetongue, beach cabbage, wild parsley, mussels, morels — but the shrimping is even better.
A shrimp pot is a metal cage covered in a net that cinches at the bottom. We hang bait in the middle from a string, and then shrimp enter through side tunnels that are inward-turned cones. We tie a clove hitch on a rock and clip it with a ganion to the bottom, which keeps it oriented the right way when we throw the whole contraption overboard and let out the weighted line to let it sink to the bottom. On the end of the line is a buoy — in our case, an empty Clorox bottle — that stays afloat and lets us find the pot again.
We’ve made our basecamp on the western beach of Cenotaph Island, and we can watch our buoy bob around while going about our daily routines. Rick’s tent is furthest north in the moss strip between beach and forest, positioned so he can see the boat when he opens his tent flap. Ryan’s and mine are close together, end to end.
Further on, our totes are lined up just inside the woods, under alder branches, next to the stream where we fetch water. Rick has cleared an easy path to this spot, and I’ve carved a notch on a broken-off branch to hold the water filter. The water drips slowly into our bottles’ necks where they sit atop a flat stone I’ve requisitioned from the beach. The water drops a span of a foot or so, the thin stream blowing off course zanily when there’s a breeze. But it works surprisingly well, reliably replenishing our supply.
Across the stream, we’ve rigged a shelter tarp between some trees. This has been morale-critical on our rainy days: on sun days, we breakfast and then gather adventure supplies from the totes and set out; on rain days, we emerge from our tents as little as we can get away with.
But shrimping is every day. In our rubber dinghy, we motor out, catch the buoy, and pull the line. It grows heavy as we lift it from the ocean floor, slicking our raingear with the grey glacier silt mud. Hand over gloved hand, we pull up fifteen fathoms’ worth of heavy line.
The round pot fills our laps, shrimp flicking around the netted space. We unhook the rock, balance the pot above a bucket, and loose the cinch: a few pounds’ haul every day, shrimp in three species falling into the bucket and the floor of our boat.
We re-bait, reposition the boat from its drift, and restart the process.
The bucket of shrimp comes ashore to the daily cook fire. We make paella, jambalaya, tomatillo-spiced saute, shrimp tails for tomorrow’s hike, or just shrimp, hot, fresh, boiled in seawater: grab it by the antennae, crack to either side to pull the head (suck out the juices), two cracks to extract the tail, unjacket the center, and place the sweet meat straight in your mouth while you reach for the next.