Story by Cameron Foster
Photography by Igda Warner + Christina Purcell
My alarm goes off at 5:00 am, but I was already awake in anticipation of the morning ahead. It’s the opening day of the 2021 Dungeness crab season in Washington state, practically a holiday for any seafood-loving Pacific Northwesterner.
The day before, I prepared my crab and shrimp pots, readied for their dive off the edge of my boat tethered 100 feet from our Camano Island, Washington home. As the sun rose, I kayaked out. Opening day, for my twelfth year in a row, was just as exciting as the first. I headed for my favorite spots to drop pots before the mass of hundreds of other crabbing enthusiasts would soon follow. However, this opening day was a little different than in years past. I’d promised a Northwest crab feast, complete with fresh Dungeness crab and Spot shrimp, to some of our neighbors in Old Town, Alexandria. So the pressure was on to catch some of Seattle’s finest seafood from the depths of the Puget Sound.
It’s day two. My pots have been soaking for 24 hours. Anticipation builds as I hook the weighted lines to the pot puller on my 14’ Boston Whaler pully. My crabbing obsession feels like the rush of a gambler – what will appear? One, six, twenty crabs in a single pot? Sometimes it’s a winner with crabs stacked three high in the two-foot by a two-foot metal cage. And sometimes a losing crab pot – empty of crustaceans – can still be a jackpot off Camano Island. For in one of my pots, as it breaks to the surface of the sea sits a baby Giant Pacific octopus who took a ride up to say hello before I pulled him out and sent him on his way.
I retrieved pots for the next four days from depths ranging from 80 to 170 feet. It never gets old seeing the dark purple backs of the Dungeness crabs in the pots as they slowly ascend from the ocean depths. And yes, this year, full pots! A winning hand!
As an NFL agent for the past 32 years, our beach house on Camano Island has been my place to relax and unwind. It’s a place where I can breathe and reflect on what truly is important to me. One thing that’s become clearer the older I get is that the random paths we cross with others are opportunities to enrich our lives. Those intersections don’t have to be momentary, and with a little nourishment can become something very special.
Who knew how complicated a cross-country trip with crustaceans could be?! After learning more than I ever wanted to about the rules and regulations for flying seafood, my wife, Noelle, and I boarded a non-stop flight from Seattle to DC’s Reagan National Airport. In tow: two coolers with freshly cooked and cleaned crabs and shrimp on ice packs. With fingers crossed our seafood would stay frozen. Next stop: Old Town Alexandria.
We purchased a fixer-upper house in Old Town a few years earlier and completely renovated it. We love so many things about this community, the history, museums, the ability to walk to indie boutiques and foodie spots that line King Street. But what Noelle and I love the most about our community here is our neighbors.
Noelle spent the day preparing numerous dishes she has mastered over the years on Camano Island with crab as the main ingredient. From crab cakes and crab dip to freshly boiled crab and white wine with garlic sautéed Spot shrimp. We were excited to share some of our favorite things from Seattle with our new friends in Old Town.
Although we have only known our Alexandria friends for a few years the relationships are true and unrehearsed. A former Seal Team Six member, a retired two-star general in the Navy. Vice President Pence’s former National Security Advisor and a former Brigadier in Australia’s Army are just a few of the amazingly interesting people standing inside our little 1860 home this night on North Alfred Street.
As we gathered at our home, my Ipad served our guests as the window to the ocean-to-table journey of our seafood feast. Our friends seemed interested in the endeavor, laughed as we recounted the tale from Washington to Old Town and picked up effortlessly into conversations we’d begun months earlier. We only see each other a few times a year, but there’s an ease to the friendships that speaks of something deeper.
I can’t put my finger on it but our neighborhood friends in Old Town are special. Maybe it’s the small community feel, or that we’re all of an age that we see each other for who we are today and not for what we once were. But one thing I do know for sure is that Noelle and I are so glad that our journey brought us to this charming town on the shores of the Potomac that we now can call home. The paths we’ve crossed to get here have brought very special people into our lives. Nourished by friendship (and an occasional crab feast) we can only hope the magic of this place, and the people who call it home will be part of our lives for a very long time.
Follow The Liberty House on Instagram at @LibertyHouseOfOldTown