Gone fishin’: Time and tide do wait when asked

A fishing columnist does what it takes to make up for a lost tide.

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Fresh clams over a bed of linguini topped with chopped tomatoes cooked with basil and garlic were the reward for a morning spent raking clams. Photo by Nelson Sigelman

The August 20 print edition of The Times republished the August 13 tide chart. My good friend Cooper Gilkes alerted me in a phone call, with some degree of glee, to what he thought was a mistake on my part.

“Hey, check out your tide chart,” he said with a laugh. “You got your dates mixed up?”

Sure, we published the wrong tide chart. But it was no mistake. It was intentional, and it was done as a public service at the request of the vacationing President Obama, who emailed me on deadline day.

For those of you unfamiliar with the tide cycles, the gravitational pull of the moon on the Earth’s oceans causes tidal change.

For those of you unfamiliar with gravity, it is what causes beer to wash down your throat and not out your nostrils — unless you drink too many beers, which relates to a different law of physics.

High tides occur 12 hours and 25 minutes apart. Generally speaking, tides change about 45 minutes each day, meaning if high tide was 1 pm on Thursday, it will be about 1:45 pm on Friday, and next Thursday it will be low a little after 1 pm.

So why was this important to President Obama while he was on vacation? Well, most of us have heard of the educational initiative known as “No child left behind,” but few people know about “No fisherman left behind.”

Mr. Obama, who I am told likes to watch cable fishing shows, is concerned that fishermen are losing their ability to add and subtract — basic math skills that he thinks are important if we are to compete with fourth graders in China.

He said if I would publish the same tide chart, fishermen would be forced to add 6.5 hours to the tide listed in The Times tide chart.

He also said something about national security issues and the need to confuse anyone trying to approach Farm Neck Golf Club from the sea while he was playing golf, but I am not at liberty to discuss that part of his request.

Saturday morning, about 9 am, I called Tom Robinson to see if he might be interested in looking for some bonito. Tom said he had to go see some clients about tree work in the morning, and he planned to go clamming in Tashmoo later in the day. Tom was planning a trip to upstate New York later in the week, he said, and he wanted to bring a bushel of clams, always a big hit with his landlocked friends.

He had a plan. Get his half-bushel limit on Saturday, and get another half-bushel, the start of a new week, on Sunday.

“When’s low tide?” I asked.

“Late afternoon,” Tom said. “Why?” he said, sensing something amiss.

“I hope you didn’t use our tide chart,” I said. “We published last week’s.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Tom said, knowing my sense of humor and not guessing that I was acting under the direction of the president.

Tom is good at math.

“Then I should be clamming right now,” he said. “I don’t believe it.”

But Tom could not go clamming. He had appointments to make.

I tried to explain why we had published the same tide chart. Tom was not buying my story.

Sunday morning, about 9:30 am, I went clamming with Tom and turned over the better part of my half-bushel to him. It seemed like the patriotic thing to do.

I did retain a couple of dozen clams for dinner. That night we ate some on the half shell. In my view, fresh clams should never be lathered with cocktail sauce, horseradish, or any condiment. Why obliterate the inherent, salty yet subtle taste of a fresh clam? It is wrong. The most I will allow is a squeeze of lemon.

The next night I sautéed some garlic in olive oil in a saucepan and added chopped-up fresh garden tomatoes, chopped basil, chives, salt and pepper, and a half-cup of starchy water from a boiling pot of linguini. While that simmered, I sautéed the clams in a pan with some olive oil. Once the clams opened, I took a few large spoonfuls of the pan broth and added it to my sauce. I arranged the clams around a plate and put the linguini in the middle topped with the sauce. It was delicious, and well worth the effort it took to rake up the clams and the embarrassment of having to concoct a story to make up for printing the same tide chart twice.

Sengy update

“We hauled it,” Edgartown harbormaster Charlie Blair told me Tuesday. He was referring to a junk boat and trailer left at the Ocean Heights landing. He took another boat belonging to the same fisherman and left it in the man’s yard.

The landing and surrounding areas are considerably cleaner now, as they should be. Charlie is determined not to let them backslide. Mooring permit requirements will be enforced, and this fall all boats and kayaks will need to be removed by Oct. 1, he said. “That goes for all our landings,” he said.

Year-round storage that turns into year-round trash will no longer be allowed. To his credit, Charlie admits that his focus on the busy harbor caused him to overlook some of the areas off the beaten path.

In policing, the “broken windows” approach considers the effect small crimes have on the overall neighborhood. Charlie’s renewed approach to the landings and his efforts to crack down on those who treat these public spaces like private dumps is a positive trend.