Squid Fleet’s In
After a casual morning of getting things travel ready, it was an easy and uneventful 5 – 6 hour drive to the “left coast”. We finally made it to California. Arriving in Half Moon Bay just before dusk, we found a large parking area with other RV’s set up and we pulled in. It looked just like a parking lot at Pillar Point Marina and to be back on the waterfront, after months of High Country Desert and that “dry heat”, it was perfect.
One of the neighboring motorhomes was able to give us the heads up on registration and fees. We anticipated that California would be more expensive, but $45 per night with no hookups and just a paved parking lot did seem pretty steep. But we were back to the ocean and for now all seemed right with the world.
It has been three and a half months since we left Florida and our arrival in Half Moon Bay, California meant we had traveled from “SEA To Shining SEA”.
It was now dusk out as we found our “parking place” and I set out to find the Harbormaster to register and pay for a night or two. It was a short hike, but wow to smell that sea air and see the boats in the marina really put a smile on my face. Pillar Point was a working harbor and I saw several commercial fishing boats that seemed tucked away for the night. Once at the Harbormasters Office, the door was locked with a sign displaying a phone number for the Harbormaster. I had my cellphone with me and gave him a call and he said he’d be right down in about 10 minutes so I took a little walk around looking at the boats and also noticed a great place for breakfast the next morning. Soon the Harbormaster arrived and we seemed to hit it off as I shared my thoughts on the beautiful harbor. He said, considering our late evening arrival that he wouldn’t charge for our stay tonight and that tomorrow we could decide if we were staying or heading back out on the road.
Back at the motorhome we pulled out some chairs and had a nice relaxing evening listening to the Pillar Point Fog Horn’s proclamation to mariners for safe passage home.
The following morning we awoke to a bustling harbor with forklifts running back and forth and semi trucks lined up all around our parking lot. We had our morning coffee and took care of the morning rituals and headed down to the docks to see what all the activity was about.
As we got closer to the center of the activity it became clear that we had better watch our steps and stay clear of these forklifts that were loading large tubs into the semi’s because they were on a mission and probably wouldn’t stop for us. They had that crazed look in their eyes that told you “if you get in my way, I’ll squash you like a bug”.
The Squid Fleet was in and unloading.
This was an impressive orchestration with the squid being offloaded into these tubs and workers loading ice into the tubs as forklifts staged the tubs for other forklifts to load into the trucks. We must have counted 40 or 50 full size semi trucks in line to whisk the squid away to processing plants and restaurants and fish markets at various destinations.
According to the Half Moon Bay Review, the local fishermen at Pillar Point Harbor know the ropes of netting crab and salmon, but the real cash crop these days is squid. Rubbery, slippery squid is a low-price, high-yield sea catch that exploded in a frenzy in recent days, bringing in a fleet of fishermen from across the West Coast in a gold-rush craze for calamari. Like clockwork, the boats were off-loading about 300 tons of squid a day, a rate they hoped could remain strong until the season ends.
Ninety-five percent of the squid will be exported overseas with 70 percent headed for China. Nearly all of it would be for human consumption, with some scraps left for fishing bait. That haul could fetch a price ranging from $500 to $600 a ton, according to one fishing company owner. The locals tell tales of fishermen able to pay off expensive boats from the proceeds of one boom squid year.
In 2011, more than 130,000 tons of squid were caught off the state, making it the highest yield sea product. That haul fetched $70 million, making it also the highest-value sea catch, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife landing totals.
For this year, the season is capped at 118,000 tons. Once that quota is reached, Fish and Wildlife officials will declare the season over.
I now understand the scurry on the docks because it was a race to get the fishing boats unloaded and back out knowing that it would only be a matter of time until the quota would be filled.
We headed over to that breakfast spot I found, Ketch Joanne restaurant, and we enjoyed breakfast at their outdoor dining area. As you can imagine, the menu was heavily laden with seafood choices and the coffee was rich and bold. Their patronage seemed equally mixed with fisherman and locals taking in the Squid frenzy. Some of the fisherman were enjoying that well deserved beer with breakfast after a night of harvesting the deep to see what Mother Ocean would surrender.
My take away ~ “God Bless capitalism, because the next time I enjoy Calamari there will be some fisherman also enjoying the fruits of his labors”.