One of the critical pieces of clamming equipment is the noodle. Not the kugel kind, the pool toy kind – those 5-foot lengths of Styrofoam that kids invariably use to thwack their friends upside the head.
Clammers, though, have a different use for them. When you wade out with your rake, you need to bring a basket to contain your catch. As soon as you go beyond about ankle-deep, that basket needs to float. There are rings made for the purpose, but noodles are cheaper. You simply cut a length equal to the circumference of the top of your basket, and tie it on.
That’s what we did, and went out for a trial clamming. Voila! Flotation. Well, for a while.
We miscalculated the noodle-to-clam ratio. One noodle will support about three-quarters of a peck of clams. Then, just when you think everything’s going swimmingly, you drop a clam into your basket and the whole thing sinks to the bottom.
Since we didn’t have another noodle, and stores don’t stock them in the dead of winter, we got very good at dropping our clams into the sunken basket so that a good 80% of them went in. The other 20% we had to re-clam. Clamming is hard enough the first time around. Scrounging around the sea floor for clams you’ve already caught is pretty demoralizing.
My friend Linda, an experienced and enthusiastic clammer, understands. For my birthday (albeit belatedly), she got me a noodle, all cut up and ready to attach to my basket. To fully appreciate the value of this gift, you need to understand that, in order to get it, she had to deck the local high school swim coach, who wanted to buy out the entire stock.
Linda, her mother, and her little daughter Lily conspired to get me a gift that I needed, that I wanted, and that I was very glad to have. And, if that weren’t enough, they wrote me a poem:
Your new clam gear looks sweet from head to feet!
There’s only one problem left to defeat.
You’ve got new waders, a rake, and maybe a boat,
But that basket, when full, refuses to float!
We cut up some noodles and made you a gift.
Tie them on good so they don’t go adrift.
So, as late as we are, there’s one thing to say:
Have a happy, happy belated birthday!
Everyone should have such friends.