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seattle summers flip flop life

Seattle Summers – Fishing in Hunters

Summer is the only reason most of us live in the Seattle area. Some may argue the point with stories of amazing winter skiing opportunities; of which there are many. But not enough to offset the dark, wet, gray, days of Fall, Winter, and early Spring. Soul crushing days with only 8 hours of daylight obscured by a constant dull gray blanket of clouds that sow their gloom with a bland grayness that sucks the light from even the brightest of souls.

This is the land of strong dark coffee, heavy ales, and angst-ridden music. This is Seattle nine months of the year. A long season made for slugs, indoor work, and melancholy daydreams. Why do we endure it? Summer.

Summer here is like no place else. The clouds recede revealing a breathtaking landscape of mountain ranges; the Cascades to the East and the Olympics to the West. Mountains that fade into legend during the dark months show themselves. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Mt. St Helens, Mt Adams. Amazingly, each more magnificent in life than in memory.

Below the mountains, the lakes take on a new radiance. Lakes Washington, Sammamish, and Union become freckled with boats and boaters drinking in all that is summer in Seattle. All of this is more than most places on earth can offer, yet Seattle has another magnificent summer treat; Puget Sound. This cove of the Pacific Ocean is dotted with hundreds of small islands and waterways to explore. Home to a cornucopia of sea life including Orca Whales, Pacific Salmon, and Dungeness crab. This is today’s objective; today we go crabbing.

The key to crabbing is to find a friend or relative with a boat and a willingness to help them out when needed. Today, the time I spent this Spring helping my brother-in-law, Calvin, work on his boat will pay off. The call came last night with the question; “What are you doing tomorrow?” This question can be a trap. If I say, “nothing, why?” and then am asked to come help re-tar his roof the next day, I’m stuck.

Now, which flip flops to wear?

So I offer up a very neutral, “I’m not sure, why?” and he asks, “Want to crabbing?” Jackpot! “Yes, what time?” He says, “Let’s meet at the dock at 6:30 a.m. I set out the pots today so they can soak overnight, we just need to pull them tomorrow.” Perfect. Now, which flip flops to wear? Should I even wear flip flops?

A quick check of the weather forecast shows tomorrow to be a perfect Seattle summer day – upper 70’s and sunny, no humidity. Flip flops it is. However, sunny and 77 degrees is nice but combined with 50 degree Puget Sound water and a gentle Pacific breeze could make for a bit of a chill with a soggy flip flop strap.

I know from experience that feet always get wet when crabbing so I’ll need an all rubber flip flop. Which brings me to my Hunter Original flip flops. Nah, these are fashion flip flops and belong at the yacht club supping crab cakes and sipping chardonnay. Not on deck schlepping crab pots. Hmmm…but they are all rubber, even the strap. They also have loads of grip and likely had yachting in mind when they settled on the outsole. In fact, I’ve never even come close to slipping on wet or dry in my Hunter Originals. But crabbing? Really? I’ll give them a shot, Hunter Originals it is.

I arrive at “C” dock at the Ballard Marina on Lake Union a little before 6:30 a.m. wearing my Hunter Original flip flops. Calvin isn’t here yet. Still unsure that the Hunter Originals are up to the task I get out of my car and stroll around the parking lot.

It’s a perfect Seattle summer morning. I’m wearing a t-shirt, shorts and the Hunter Originals and feel a slight chill so I pull on my Idler hoodie with its large red snail logo silk screened on the front and am briefly aware of the British culture clash on display. The bohemian, relaxed, anti-posh Idler hoodie paired with their social superior, striving and exclusive Hunter flip flops on my feet. Both British institutions happily at opposite ends of the cultural divide now seem much closer to one another than otherwise assumed. We’re all just people after all.

Calvin pulls up and we grunt groggy early morning greetings at each other and go about prepping the boat for today’s expedition. The boat, “Sweet Amelia”, is pretty good sized at 25 feet long with a full berth, kitchen, dining table and bathroom below deck. It takes some skill to navigate her through the Ballard Locks and into Puget Sound.

I swear these Hunters make me feel like I belong at sea.

Since he’d dropped the crab pots the day before, the loading of the boat goes quickly. Coffee, beer, sausages, and bait to refill the crab pots are all we need today. We’re hopeful that after resting on the bottom of Elliott Bay overnight we’d have a nice haul.

The Hunter Originals are eager to get on the boat. The grip is solid, at home even, on the walk along the dock to the boat. Boarding Sweet Amelia is a breeze. On deck, as we ready for the passage through the Ballard Locks the Hunters are genuine First Mate material. Both in performance and appearance.

The Harbor Master looks at me as a seasoned deckhand and not as the weekend help that I am. These Hunters are amazing. Once through the Locks, Calvin sets a course to the 24-hour soaked crab pots. I spy the first of four of our buoys indicating the location of the pots just off the starboard side (I even call it “starboard” instead of saying “right side”. I swear these Hunters make me feel like I belong at sea).

As Calvin navigates the Sweet Amelia toward that first buoy I step off the deck and onto the 3-foot wide swim platform with nothing between me and the cold 50-degree salt water but my Hunter Originals and the fiberglass swim platform – there is no railing out here.

This is the moment of truth. Will they grip? Will they hold up? Almost immediately a wave swamps the swim platform submerging my feet up to the ankle in chilly salt water. If my Hunters loose grip now there is a real chance that I end up in the Sound. The Hunters don’t even blink.

They grip the swim platform with solid confidence. No toe curl, no drama. I focus on the crab pot buoy as it draws near and reaches over the water to grab it and haul up the lead-weighted line. The Hunters love it. They are committed and completely focused on the task at hand. Once I secure the line I thread it through the automatic hoist, the Hunters stand firm as the line coils at my feet, the hoist’s motor whirring the pot up from the deep.

As the crab pot breaks the surface we see that it is full of Dungeness crab, most of them keepers. The same holds for the other three pots. The Hunters are perfect. Not flinching or slipping on the seaweed or crab bait that spill onto the swim platform. Wrangling the crab, re-baiting the pots, tossing them back into the water. Solid.

As we sail back toward the Locks and home with a cooler full of crab I marvel at how well these so called fashion flip flops performed. I could not have asked for more.

Back in port, a quick rinse with the hose and they are ready for the next adventure. They are completely at ease that evening at our back yard Seattle summer night crab feast and party. They mingle through the crowd of friends, family, and neighbors with me long into this perfect Seattle Summer night.

At around 10:00 p.m. as the sun sets, I think to myself, “this is why we live here.”