Having not been to Point Peron before, I’d been warned not to expect much of the accommodation. I was told to picture the units at Rottnest but to add on 30 years. It was early afternoon and around 36 degrees when my limo driver (thanks Craig) dropped me at my unit and I took my first look inside at the room I was to share. In a word, cozy. 3 single beds with only 30cm preventing me from describing them as a triple bed. The corrugated asbestos roof had done a wonderful job of heating the place to at least 46 degrees even though Chuck and Fran had been careless enough to leave every door and window open. I have to admit at that point I did have to fight the urge to turn to Uber. As it turns out the rest of the unit did have enough room to swing a mouse so I thought “toughen up princess, it’s only two nights.”
As everyone arrived throughout the afternoon and evening, some headed to the beach, some to the shops and some went straight to the drinks. Most of us were booked in for dinner over the road at the Rockingham Naval club, which had the most welcome air conditioning, and the club members there made us feel most welcome. Unfortunately they struggled to cope with such a large group and we had to wait a long time for our food orders but they kept us entertained with plenty of raffles and even shared some of the Clubs birthday cake. After dinner it was back for more drinking and planning for the early morning start for those who were going crabbing. Now early starts and I don’t mix too well and I had been told in previous years they were off around 4am, so there was no way I was going. Apparently this was not going to be the case this year, they were not leaving until 5.10am…… Still a no from me then. But, there was a space on Graeme’s boat and he wasn’t going till 6am and the wine was starting to make that seem like no big deal and lots of fun, all I needed to take was a hat, what could go wrong.
At 4.50am an alarm on the other side of the wall went off and Chuck did his best to not wake the rest of us up. Let’s just say he did a better job than I did of not disturbing Kate 40 minutes later and I at least had some daylight to work with. Chuck, Ron, Daz, Bee and Michael were all off to try their hand at scooping some crabs just up the road in Rockingham, Whilst Graeme, Salt, Phil, Jim, Caroline and I were off to Mandurah estuary to try the crab nets. At 6am I saw the tinny for the first time. So, it turns out that Graeme has more than one boat. Hmmm no canopy, it’s ok, I have sunscreen and they had told me to bring a hat. It was starting to dawn on me that there were probably a lot of other questions I should have thought to ask the night before. I’d decided to bring the wetsuit as well – if I got too hot a quick dip in the Mandurah estuary would have me cool in no time. Salt had installed a new canopy on his tinny – I’m told he got a little fried the previous year so he wasn’t going to be caught out again. It started to rain just as we were launching the boats. Perhaps the shorts and t-shirt we all had on were not the best choice. But this isn’t the UK, it will just be a shower.
With the three boats launched Graeme led across to the other side of the estuary, followed by Salt and Phil with Jim and co bringing up the rear. By the way Jim’s boat isn’t a tinny it’s a rather nice rib boat. At this point I see that Phil didn’t just bring a hat, he seemed to have full waterproof gear on and Salt had donned his wetsuit. That’s ok, luckily I brought mine and this shower will be over soon enough. Once at our destination, I got my first lesson in using crab nets. The crab nets we were using were made of two different size metal rings with netting, rope and a buoy attached so that they lie flat until lifted by the rope when they form a wide bucket shape. In the centre is a plastic pot, mesh envelope of just a spike to secure the bait. We put out our 10 baited pots in a line as did Salt and Phil whilst Jim took his boat into the shallows to see if they could scoop some crabs whilst wading. After dropping the pots we went back to the first one to check its progress and bingo, straight away a blue crab that was big enough to keep, this was going to be easy. I deferred to Graeme when it came to extracting each crab from the net, dodging those claws look tricky. It’s at this point Graeme told me that once we had 20 crabs we were done as the limit is 10 per person and his record was two runs with the pots to reach the limit. After our first two runs we had caught about 40 crabs, all but two having worked out how to stop their shell from growing the extra 2mm that would prevent them fitting under the sizing gauge. We then headed over to the shallows to see how Jim and Caroline were doing as they waded close to shore. With the sun still refusing to come out visibility in the shallows was pretty bad and despite best efforts and some crab juggling by Jim, it seems the two crabs skillfully plucked from the water were also undersize and had to be returned.
By now the rain had stopped and there was a little warmth in the easterly blowing which was just what Graeme needed to dry out his sopping shirt. Jim decided he’d had enough and so he left us to it. It was soon after this that we heard the first thunder. An hour later we still hadn’t reached double figures and we moved some of the pots to deeper water where we seemed to be getting better results. Salt and Phil were faring no better and they headed over to another area to try their luck there. Then it really started to rain and the sunscreen I had been so careful to apply earlier ran in to my eyes to combine with the salt water. Phil had given up on the waterproof gear and resorted to his wetsuit, Graeme was never going to be dry again and Salt was working on the design for a cabin on his tinny for next year. After 3 and half hours on the water I’d stopped noticing how much I was shivering and we were up to 15 crabs and Salt and Phil were around the same. The thunder seemed to be getting closer and it did cross my mind that sitting in a tinny on the estuary might not be the safest place to be. Then much to my disappointment Graeme said he didn’t have that much fuel to keep crabbing indefinitely and we’d have to make this our last run. I think he misread my teeth chattering at this point as a smile. After a quick race back across the estuary, which Salt won due to Graeme’s inferior crew not noticing we were on the scenic route, it was boats on trailers and the sanctuary of a dry car. I was so grateful for the hot shower back at the unit that I felt bad for dissing the place to start with.
Whilst we’d been away having all the fun the other crabbers (if that’s not a word it is now) had lots of fun too trying to pick up crabs with welders gloves and had managed to bag a few. Several also went bowling or shopping and generally stayed dry. Graham and Lorraine had brought the jetski and Graham got to take it for a quick spin round the camp on the back of the car before covering it up from the rain. The boys then cooked up all the crabs, the rain stopped, and we had a feast followed by more drinking and BBQ. The live band then appeared from nowhere for a two hour set with Jim on vocals and guitar and Phil mouth organ and Caroline on shakers (possibly not their technical name), dancers Rose and Kate and Graeme kindly provided the Jam donuts. Thanks to Jan for organizing and everyone for their great company. Whilst the rain might have scuppered some plans everyone made the best of it because that’s just the kind of people they are. Tight – they had paid for the units.
Susan Lockley – Retired ‘Crabber’