Archive for the ‘Willapa Bay’ Category

Off on the Great Clam Hunt!

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

The Intrepid Clammers

Chef Nyel sent us intrepid ones off to tideflats to get a few clams for the paella.  “A couple of dozen should be plenty,” said he, and off we went — Alex and three of his kids with me as guide.  It was seven ayem; Charlie slept in.

Hard At It!

The morning was fabulous — blue skies with patches of fluffy white, still and windless.  We had the bay to ourselves and it seemed we could see from one end to the other.   Besides one another, the only signs of life to be seen were a few teeny-tiny crabs scuttling southwards.  I couldn’t help think how lucky we all are that our family has retained these second-class tidelands.  We represented three of the five generations since our great/great-great/great-great-great grandfather R.H. Espy first arrived on these very tideflats in 1854.  My fondest hope is that there will be many more Espy desescendents who will enjoy “Grandpa’s Village” of Oysterville and all it has to offer…

Dinner Companions’ First Meeting

There seemed to be a plethora of clams — but quite small.  We filled the chef’s request plus a few more and were back at the house by eight o’clock to scrub them clean and put them in a bucket of fresh bay water.  They spent yesterday cleaning themselves until the chef is ready to begin tonight’s dinner!  YUM!  I can scarcely wait!

Time and Tide and the Oysterville Regatta

Friday, May 14th, 2021

2017 Regatta Invitation

Most of us know that time and tide wait for no man.  Those of us who live a stone’s throw from the banks of Willapa Bay probably know it as well as anyone and so it stands to reason that Tucker would consult the Friday Nighters about which Saturday in August would be best for the Annual Oysterville Regatta.  It is an event that is almost totally dependent upon time and tides.

There are, of course, certain non-negotiable prerequisites.  The regatta needs to be in the afternoon (for the wind), on a Saturday (for optimum participation), preferably in August. In addition, the tide must be high enough to launch the boats from the moorage at the foot of Clay Street.

2015 Regatta Invitation

As it turned out, the decision wasn’t as easy as one would suppose.  It wasn’t a matter of “just consulting the tide tables” because, would you believe… the tide tables were not in agreement with one another!   So, Tucker did a little research — actually went to the Port at Nahcotta and did some measuring and calculating and tonight brought his findings to the group.

When presented with all the facts and possible alternatives, we decided that Saturday, August 21st will be perfect!  High tide is shortly after 2:00 so Tucker says that immediately following the Skipper’s Meeting at high noon, they’ll head for the bay and get their boats in the water asap.  A little earlier than former years and all of us spectators are more than ready.  Out came our cell phones so we could mark the date!

Tucker’s 2016 Regatta Invitation

Anticipation is running high, already.  After all, when that airhorn blasts out the start of the 2021 Oysterville Regatta, it will have been two full years since the last one.  And not only are we overdue — we can’t remember which number this is.  Calling it the umpty-umpth, while close to accurate, feels a bit bogus.  Tonight, though, we spectators agreed that we are more than ready!  We hope the sailors are, as well!  And if not, they have two full months plus seven days to prepare — which the chickens and I imagine means talking to their boats and spiffing up their outfits.  The rest, as we are often told, is a crap shoot.

On The Edge of Daylight

Monday, March 8th, 2021

December Sunrise

Our alarm goes off at 5:30 each morning no matter what.   Often we are already awake — just sort of drowsing and waiting.  At this time of year the view out our windows is “almost.”  We can almost see the bay.  We can almost see the fence at the east end of the garden.  It is almost daylight.

By the time I’ve made the coffee and brought it back to the bedroom, the sun is peeking over the Willapa Hills and we can get some sense of how the weather will be.  Not for the day, of course.  We are always aware of our coastal words to live by:  If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.  But at least I can tell if I need rainhat and boots to go down to the chicken coop.

Winter Sunrise 2012

According to WillyWeather, first light happened today at 6:10 and sunrise at 6:40.  Hmmm.  It all seemed a bit earlier to me… but no matter.  Things will begin about two minutes earlier by the clock until Sunday and then: Daylight Savings Time arrives.  We’ll be going backwards for a while, light-wise, with first light on May 14th at 6:58 and sunrise at 7:28.  Damn!

I’m really tired of getting up in the dark…  It’s one of the worst aspects of winter.  Perhaps we should change that pesky alarm for a few weeks until we catch up to ourselves.  Maybe until April 8th when first light is at 6:08 A.M. and sunrise is at  6:39.  Sounds perfect!

Another Run of King Tides Coming Up!

Friday, December 11th, 2020

High Tide on Clay Street, February 12, 2017

I’ve never put together until recently that the term “King Tide” has to do with Climate Change.  I knew, of course, that we didn’t have anything called “king tides” when I was a kid — just high, low, ebb, slack and a few other descriptors.  And every once in a while there’d be a ginormously high tide.   Folks would just say, “Wow!  That’s a really high tide!” and the wags would get out their rowboats and or canoes and paddle down Fourth Street (as Territory Road was then called.)

But when I heard on KMUN that this was to be another King Tide Weekend — the second in less than a month — I decided to find out a little more.  As in why have we only heard of king tides recently?  It all made sense when I learned that the term was originated in 2009 when Australia experienced their highest seasonal tides in almost 20 years.  Since then the concept of “king tides” has become a common colloquial term to describe higher than normal high tides.   So there you have it.

The Meadow at High Tide, February 10, 2017

According to a recent news report from Depoe Bay, just down the coast apiece, “Tourists, nature lovers and amateur scientists are whipping out their cameras to document the effects of extreme high tides on shorelines from the United States to New Zealand, and by doing so are helping better predict what rising sea levels will mean for coastal communities around the world.”  The article goes on to say that what we see this weekend will approximate what the shoreline will look like (as a result of climate change) in 2050 with the tide about a foot to a foot and half (30 to 46 centimeters) above “normal” (to us) water levels.

Wow!  Finally there will be a crystal ball (of sorts) right here in Oysterville and we will be able to look thirty years into the future!  And right out our east windows, too!  High tide times during daylight hours will be:  the 13th, 11:44 a.m. 12.6 feet; the 14th, 12:29 p.m. 12.8 feet; 1:14 p.m. 12. 7 feet.  (Actually these times are for Nahcotta four miles to our South, so they may be off by a few minutes.)  Of course, should there be an unexpected storm with high winds pushing that water shoreward, the high tides could be even higher…  Don’t forget to wear your rubber boots!

 

Oysterville’s Winter People

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Egret on Clay Street – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

The pair of egrets that showed up a month or so ago are still hanging out.  Their winter address seems to be “Willapa Bay at Clay Street.”  That’s where Tucker and Carol have been seeing them on their daily walks along the bay path in front of town.  Yesterday, Tucker took a few photographs that they may want for their Winter Vacation in Oysterville scrapbook — if egrets keep scrapbooks.  Which is doubtful.

Actually, the doubtful part might not be the scrapbooks.  Some folks could question whether or not these are egrets.  According to Wikipedia (whose information is also sometimes doubtful) the distinction between a heron and an egret is rather vague, and depends more on appearance than biology. The word “egret” comes from the French word “aigrette” that means both “silver heron” and “brush”, referring to the long filamentous feathers that seem to cascade down an egret’s back during the breeding season (also called “egrets”).

Egret In Flight – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

So some could wonder if this lovely white pair, who have apparently moved in for the season, are actually our year round great blue herons in their winter disguise.  After all, we have lots of great blue herons around Willapa Bay.  There are several GBH rookeries near Oysterville and the information about their winter plumage could cause confusion.

Accordingly, I investigated a bit further.  A National Wildlife Federation blog had this to say: Great egrets are a little smaller than the white-phase great blue heron, but the real giveaway is the color of the legs. Great egrets have black legs while white-phase great blue herons have much lighter legs. Herons also have slightly heavier beaks and “shaggier” feathers on their breast.

Carol on “The Bay Path” in Oysterville – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Hooray for Tucker’s fabulous photographs!  The legs of our two visitors are clearly black, an obvious indicator that  these particular “winter people” (in contrast to the “summer kid” that I once was) are, indeed, “great egrets.”  Or just Esther and Ethan if they say so.  They are certainly a welcome and treasured addition to our little community for however long they choose to stay.

The Ebb and Flow

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Capri

Since first we met, Nyel and I have had an ongoing discussion that always begins – “If you could have a little getaway place, where would you choose.  My answer has varied over the years – Capri, Corfu, maybe Carmel but it is almost always somewhere near the sea.  Nyel is equally consistent – the mountains.  Any mountains.

“And, if you have to have water, we could choose a place near a mountain lake,” he assures me.

But… the lake is not the sea.  And the mountains aren’t at sea level.  I feel nervous in the mountains – perhaps it’s the rarified air.  Perhaps it’s that getting anyplace requires climbing, either up or down.  Perhaps I’m just basically lazy.

Mountain Lake 

“We could choose a nice, big lake.  It would feel like the sea.  And you could just sit beside it and relax – no need to hike.  Not up. Not down,” he teases.

“How about Paris?”  I counter.  We both love Paris.  Not by the sea.  And not in the mountains.  A compromise.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces that I am drawn to the water.  And maybe it’s because I have always lived by tidal waters that I feel the need to be close to the sea.  For Nyel, maybe it’s because he’s a Leo that the mountains have appeal.  And maybe his childhood in inland, mountainous Idaho left an indelible yearning.  I don’t know the answer…

A Sunrise on Willapa Bay

Fortunately, perhaps, it’s only a game we play.  We aren’t really in the market for a getaway place – or even for a fantasy vacation.  We are content in Oysterville – admittedly, I more so than my lion mate.  From our house here across from the church, as my Uncle Willard wrote, I can watch the slow breathing of the bay, six hours in and six hours out. No matter where we are in the cycle, I am content that the ebb and flow will continue. Forever and ever.  Amen.

Oysterville? Or Oahu?

Monday, December 24th, 2018

Photo by Tucker (Lina’s Dad)

It’s not every day – actually, up to now it has been never – that we drive into Oysterville and see a couple in wetsuits off-loading their paddleboards and stepping from the road directly into the bay!  Wow!  The sky was sunny blue and rainy gray “intermittently” as they say, there was no wind at all and the only way we really knew that we weren’t in Hawaii was… no surf.  Not even a ripple.

We had been out doing errands and just happened to come back into the village when our neighbors Lina and Dave had decided to take their boards down to the meadow and go out for a spin.  Or whatever you call a short jaunt on a water-filled meadow adjacent to and, for a half hour or so, a part of Willapa Bay.  The unusual part wasn’t so much the high tide – those happen every winter about this time.  It was seeing ‘locals’ with paddleboards stepping into the water like it was an everyday event!

Yesterday on Willapa Bay – Tucker Wachsmuth Photo

December in my mother’s day, a hundred years ago now, often meant bundling up and heading for Skating Lake just west and south of the cemetery.  In those days, the lake was really large – it went south almost as far as Ocean Park, or so I’ve been told.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that they messed around with drainage for the Surfside Golf Course that the lake shrunk to its current size – or so I’ve been told.

Anyway, in Mom’s girlhood – and even in my own childhood (occasionally) – the winters were cold enough that the lake froze and everyone grabbed their skates (if they had them) and went up to the lake.  Parents and other non-skaters built bonfires around the edges and kept the hot chocolate warm for frost-bitten ‘Hans Brinkers’ – most of whom were simply slipping and sliding on their shoes with grand exuberance.

Meadow or Bay? Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

And now?  Paddle-boarding in Oysterville in December?  My forebears would be sore amazed!  You’d almost think we were living in the banana belt – right here on the banks of Willapa Bay!  I doubt that you’d find many climate-change skeptics among the old-timers here.  Not yesterday, anyway.

Once in a Lifetime

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Music, Not Moons

I’m getting more and more skeptical about these “once in a lifetime events” that the media hypes.  Maybe it’s because I’m fast aging beyond the charts in terms of life expectancy for women in the United States.  It’s 81, according to a December 2017 HuffPost article and since I’ll be 82 toward the end of February,  once in a lifetime doesn’t always cut it anymore.

However, tomorrow night’s super blue blood moon that will be visible as a blue moon, a supermoon and a total lunar eclipse coincide to create the spectacle which experts say has not been viewed for 150 years.  If those experts are correct – another thing I am finding more reasons to doubt as I approach my BEY (Beyond Expectancy Years) – then, indeed, tomorrow night’s phenomenon will be new for me.

Tomorrow?

Part of the problem, I think, in these once-in-a-lifetime deals is that I’m having trouble remembering all the ones I’ve seen.  Some niggling little part of me thinks that ‘they’ are sneaking repeats in and counting on us older, fuzzier people not to remember.  Of course, tomorrow’s triple-header has not been seen since 1866.  If that’s true, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t around to see it.  Parts of it, yes, but not all in one fell swoop.

The parts involve our second full moon for this month, commonly called a “blue moon.”  Plus, a full eclipse caused by the moon passing through the earth’s shadow that will cause the moon to take on a coppery color for about an hour – the “blood” part.  And the “super” aspect is because this particular passage is happening when the moon is at the closest point in its elliptical orbit to the earth.  So…super blue blood moon!

Moonrise Over Willapa Bay, August 2013

Of course, for us here on the western edge, the biggest unknown is will it even be visible.  Cloud cover in January is always a distinct possibility.  One website said that the best chance for us would be to watch our TVs.  Well… wouldn’t you know?  Maybe that will be the once-in-a-lifetime event for me –   watching the moon on television instead of through my east windows as it rises over the bay.  A bit underwhelming as singular lifetime events go.  Just sayin’…

Skinny Dipping in Oysterville?

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Oysterville Kids High and Dry c. 1946

My skinny dipping days were over by the time I moved to Oysterville full-time in 1978.  Or so I thought.  Mostly.  Besides, even when I was a summer kid here and every day was sunny and warm, I don’t remember swimming in the altogether.  We swam in the bay in our “bay-suitys” as one of my friends called them, and we even wore “bathing shoes” to keep from getting cut on oyster shells barnacles.

I don’t know about skinny dipping in my mother’s day.  There was a time that I would have considered that idea totally shocking but that was before she told me about going “nicked and wicked” in the dunes.  No tan lines for her, no siree!

‘Swimming’ in the Bay c. 1951 — Tucker Wachsmuth Photo

As far as swimming in Oysterville was concerned, though, first choice in those ‘olden days’ of my childhood was the bay.  I think some kids went to Skating Lake, too, but that seemed like a long way away – especially to our moms who could keep an eagle eye on us if we were just out in front of the Heckes house where the shallow water was best for wading and lolling, but not really swimming.  By the time I was a teenager, Ted Holway had dredged out a real-for-sure swimming hole right at the end of our lane – still that warm bay water, but deep enough to really swim.

Nowadays, there is “the canal” and I hear tell that skinny dipping is de rigueur among swimmers of all ages.  (Just sayin’…)   Its location north of town makes it less accessible to tourists or other non-locals – a well-kept ‘secret’ you might say – though every once in a while some unlikely duck-hunter or other intrepid explorer comes upon it and asks what it is.  “The remnants” of a development called Terra Mar is the answer.

Clark Wachsmuth at The Canal c. 1980s

Here’s the skinny (ahem) according to a 1989 article by Sou’wester Editor Larry Weathers:    TERRA MAR: Abandoned real estate sales scheme north of Oysterville on Willapa Bay. Terra Mar “land by the sea” was planned as an ocean / bay recreation and retirement community in 1968. The development was to include 1,400 acres of ocean front beach homes, interior lakeside lots, bayside marina, condominiums, riding stables, airport, shopping center, clubs, and a boat canal system linking all areas “in a world where land and water are the basis of all wealth”. Terra Mar, a division of Sherwood Pacific, Inc., a Spokane company, surveyed and filed several plats at the county courthouse in September 1968 and paid for an expensive advertisement campaign which attracted several thousand investors. But Terra Mar “land by the sea” was actually “land under the bay.” Attempts to dike tidal wetlands along the bay, and dig canals in the peaty soil, were a bust. The dike could not hold back floodwater in 1974 and the normal high water table ended water pipe and canal construction. Terra Mar lot owners attempted to recover their investments, but the developers announced bankruptcy and cleared out. Nature has reclaimed the marsh and tidal wetlands but traces of the disintegrating dike and canal system still blight the landscape.

Oysterville Shoreline from Above — Bob Duke Photo

 It’s interesting how things change over time.  I’m not sure that ‘blight’ would be my word of choice these days regarding erstwhile Terra Mar.  Mother Nature has a way of reclaiming and softening and probably, like my own sainted mother, would have no difficulty in accepting this ‘swimming hole’ north of Oysterville.

Life in the Wet Lane

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

High Tide on Clay Street

The lanes in Oysterville are grassy thruways that, for the most part, lead from the bay up to Territory Road and vice-versa.  From the north they are Division, Merchant, and Clay Streets.  Main Street is the only lane that runs north to south; part of it is paved and part is grassy.  All the lanes are dedicated County roads and all are maintained (read mowed) by the adjacent neighbors.

Clay Street is ‘our’ lane; we share its care with Susan Holway, but other neighbors have weighed in over the years, too.  The inviting bench at the end the lane was built and installed by Chris Freshley.  It was Chris, too, who put up the “No Cars Please” sign about halfway along.  Not that the oystermen and other people with bay business shouldn’t drive to the bay’s edge.  Actually, that’s why the broad grassy roads exist.  The sign is to discourage unnecessary to-and-fro traffic from tearing up the lane’s fragile surface.

Willapa Bay Comes Visiting – Up to Our East Fence

On Friday, the bay made its way right up to that No Cars sign.  It made me think that we should have changed it out with a “Boats Only” announcement – at least for the hour or so that the tide was high enough to creep up over its banks and try to come on into town.  The water got about as far as our east fence but, politely I thought, stopped there and didn’t come on into our garden.

I love it when the tide is high like that.  It doesn’t happen very often because the magic combination that brings the bay into the village has to include a strong and stormy southwest or westerly wind, in addition to a nine-foot-plus tide.  Usually, that happens in December.  But I love it whenever it occurs!

The Meadow at High Tide, February 10, 2017

So do the waterfowl.  Saturday, a fleet of geese swam around and around in the erstwhile meadow.  They seemed to be out for the pure pleasure of the paddle and didn’t appear at all interested in the trees or in Willard’s stone bench that had become part of their watery territory.  Nor did they pay any attention to the occasional car that stopped on the road so that the occupants could take high tide pictures.

As I always do, I wished that the water would come on up and cover Territory Road.  I’ve seen that happen only once or twice in my lifetime and remember someone actually rowing up the street on one occasion.  I wondered if anyone had a dinghy at the ready this time… just in case.  Tucker, maybe?  Now that would be a high tide picture worth taking!