Pursuing the Plover

An oyster-friendly adventure

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

For more than a few years now, I’ve been itching to haul my tree- and rock-hugging, landlubber hide to Blaine and slosh out to sea on the second-oldest foot ferry in Washington State—the MV Plover.

Yet somehow, for one reason after another, I never quite managed to get it done. 

First came the time when unseasonably stormy midsummer weather caused us to beat a hasty retreat off the ferry dock back into the sheltering arms of Resort Semiahmoo, where we subsequently managed to spend the remainder of the afternoon sampling happy hour IPA pints and multiple platters of pomme frites.

Next came the time when, even though the sky was clear and the weather was absolutely perfect, we somehow took a wrong turn just past Ferndale and wound up planted on the beach at Point Whitehorn, being inundated by droves of great blue herons and bald eagles for hours on end instead.

Then came the incident when we made the ferry dock with 15 minutes to spare, only to find the final departure of the day was sold out, so we trucked over to Big Al’s Diner on D Street for a few restorative cheeseburgers that we devoured on the grass in Peace Arch State Park where, right beside us, a momentously massive Punjabi wedding reception featuring a live Bhangra band reverberated with such joyous, spirit-rousing rhythm that, eventually, we felt compelled to raise our arms and keep our hips swaying in anatomical solidarity all the way to dusk.    

All to say, when I recently caught wind that the MV Plover was offering special pre-season tours to the Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm, I made a beeline to Blaine and, on my fourth try in 15 years, finally managed to secure passage.

Nary a single snafu this time, I am happy to report. There was fantastic weather and pitch-perfect sailing conditions in Drayton Harbor that day. And not only did I manage to arrive plenty early, but the Plover also happened to be running a little late. 

Before I got to climb aboard, I ran myself through the dozen or so dockside interpretive displays water quality specialist Julie Hirsch had set up for her interactive education program, “Garden of the Salish Sea”—a hands-on curriculum designed to teach 5th-8th graders how to become lifelong stewards of our local intertidal zones.

I was bent studiously over a microscope checking out oyster innards when the blare of a foghorn announced the impending arrival of my long-elusive packet. And before I could say “cerebral ganglion,” I scampered onto the dock and ensconced myself on the Plover’s stern deck.

Due to the sunshine/sea breeze-induced stupor I succumbed to as we motored across open water, I’m not really sure exactly how long it took for us reach Beauty, a work boat anchored in the middle of Drayton Harbor where a small crew of interns from Bellingham Technical College was hard at work preparing their quarry for market and CSA (Community Supported Aquaculture) shareholders. 

But when Community Oyster Farm manager Steve Seymour welcomed us aboard with a camp stove full of exquisitely grilled Pacific Oysters on the half-shell to sample, I knew it had been worth the effort.

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