On going all in

In the act of starting anything, our initial location matters much less than the fact that we have even bothered to start in the first place. Eventually we will end up somewhere on the path of expertise, but end points don’t matter and I would argue are even fictitious – what matters is action.

There are things I am supremely good at – like talking about my feelings, drinking champagne and being a really good friend. Other stuff not so much, including standing in line, measuring anything with finite detail and completing technology updates on electronic devices.

But with new experiences, being crummy at something doesn’t always make it any less fun.

A lover of all things local and up for adventure, especially if I haven’t partaken before, I went crabbing a few months ago with friends in the Pacific Northwest.

On the coast, you catch crabs by lowering big stinky contraptions full of dead, rotting fish into the water in locations where you think there might be an influx of these sea creatures hiding.

Some crabbers have ‘pots’ which mean crabs can get in, but they can’t get out.

Professional stuff.

We weren’t rigged with that setup as equipment renters.

We had ‘nets’.

Crabbing with nets means you are armed with big open rings bound with rope that makes for the the large possibility of the loss of your catch while pulling up the ringed baskets.

Successful crabbing coastal dwellers don’t have nets.

In other words, we were squarely licked before we began.

Unsure where to put our nets, we made our best guess off of a small hand-drawn map provided to us by the woman with a thick, salty, sea-town drawl working the marina’s office.

We ventured out on the puttering boat with our rotten goods and our chintzy navigation. The timing of the year was on our side – it was still crabbing season and others had successful catches the day prior. We even got an extra net for being the first boat off the dock that day, that or the bearded dock hand knew something we didn’t and assumed we would need the help of an extra lure.

Our novice was apparently clear. Not just to us, but to the other mid-morning crabbers in the small Northwestern bay who gave us knowing looks.

We broke the silence between the boat nearest to us and quickly acknowledged what both groups knew already, exclaiming, “We are really new at this.”

“We see that,” the pair echoed back in unison from halfway across the bay.

“Oh. Thanks, I guess,” the group quietly thought bobbing around in the water, fish guts stuck to our clothes.

We knew, that they knew, that we sucked at this whole ordeal. Further, they were not going to help us remedy the situation by offering any sort of advice.

Flanking the inlet of the bay was a small raised bluff of sand and a few rocks on which seals had come to rest in the unseasonably warm October sun. Even the seals seemed to realize we were out of place, loudly honking at us in a way that added insult to injury and came with slight tinges of beginners shame.

Roger that. Over and out. Thanks for the tough love, everyone.

On the plus side, we had nearly unheard of coastal Portland fall weather, which was sunny and warm on a late fall weekend. The perfect day, less the rotting fish smell tickling ever so presently on our gag reflex.

While we managed to trap lots of smaller crabs over the course of a few hours with our sub-par equipment, we didn’t catch a single crab large enough to keep and eat.


We didn’t drop off our big-clawed friends into the boiling pot of water waiting for us at the dock.

We didn’t feast on freshly plucked white meat drenched in butter while sitting on the beach.

We went out to eat instead.Crabbing

In many ways, crabbing seemed a lot like life.

To get to the good stuff, you must be willing to go deep and deal with pulling up quite a few mucky baskets of rotten sludge searching for something that is unknowingly hiding somewhere below and get pretty smelly doing a hell of a ton of work.

But more than anything else, you need to be willing to go all in with the risk of coming up empty handed.

So here’s to knowing that you’re probably licked before you begin, and beginning anyway.

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