A Bite of Reality

By Tom Neale, 10/30/2008


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Pig On The Beach photo by Will McLendon
Some of us have never been bitten by a blue crab. Some of us just aren’t stupid enough to be bitten by a blue crab. I don’t fit into either category. I’ve been bitten by a blue crab—not just one time, but too many times to count. I’ve been bitten on the fingers, on the toes, on the feet, on my arms and on a lot of other places I’d just as soon not mention.  I got the most bites back in my early teenage days when I was a “professional” crabber.  I never wore boots when I dumped the crabs from the pots into the bilge of my skiff, and they were always faster and more intelligent than I thought they’d be.  I should have learned. I should have learned to wear boots and I should have learned that blue crabs are pretty quick when they’re ticked off.

When I get bitten by a blue crab, that’s my first reaction, aside from the pain. I get ticked off. When I get ticked off I get even more stupid. In an altercation with a blue crab this usually means that I try to shake or kick the thing off which is just what it wants me to do. I’ve learned (but never remember when I need to) that I really can’t shake or kick a determined blue crab off when he’s got one or more claws firmly into my flesh. All it does is hurt more. Not him—me.

After a little sanity returns, prompted by the raw pain of the situation, I usually try to crush it, or at least its offending claw, with an oar, knife or whatever. The trick is to crush it and not some part of me. But I’ve had a dismembered blue crab claw hold on to me long after its recently dearly departed owner had been rendered to a pulpy mess and tossed over the side. Then it’s time for a pair of pliers. So now I always exercise a preemptive strike when I take a blue crab aboard and dump him in a tall bucket. I wear boots, and have amputation tools nearby—for the blue crab, not for me.

Not many people have gotten bitten by a pig. Even I haven’t gotten bitten by a pig. Yet. But a friend of mine did.  He was walking on a certain beach in the Bahamas. Some Bahamians in the out islands have a practice of using certain small islands for live stock. There are literally thousands of small islands scattered about, the ownership of which is, at best, questionable. So this practice makes a lot more sense than building fences in the villages.   All you have to do is to take a couple of what you may want to eat later to an island and nature takes care of itself. So there are “pig islands,” “chicken islands,” “goat islands” and I suppose a lot of other creature islands.  It all works out well until we knowledgeable tourists come along on our cruising boats.

Some cruisers, when they come across these creatures on the little islands, have a tendency to think these are just nature’s way of giving them temporary pets---or food. Once a visiting cruiser actually shot a pig on a pig island, and broadcast the fact over the VHF, inviting certain fellow cruisers to come to a pig roast on the beach. Despite the fact that he was talking in French, the villagers got the message and apprehended the gentleman, making him pay a very large sum for the pig. It was an expensive pig.

But back to my friend:  Other cruisers had developed the habit of feeding the “cute pigs.”  I guess they thought that the pigs couldn’t survive without their “divine intervention.” This meant that anytime an unknowing cruiser chose that spot on the beach for a picnic or to camp, the party was soon interrupted by some very insistent and very unexpected and very unpleasant guests.

Tom’s Tips About Bites

1. Any bite can introduce bacteria and other life into the wound that can be far deadlier than the bite.

Click Here for More Tips

This subject came up as my friend was walking along the beach and a pig came out of the brush. “It’s not a problem,” he said, “they just want a handout. They won’t bite.”  He said this as he was walking away from the pig which, immediately, bit the guy squarely and firmly—and with skin breaking vigor— on his backside. It would have been even funnier if not for the fact that everyone there on the beach was too busy running away to laugh.

Not many people have been bitten by a blue fish. I haven’t, because I’m such a lousy fisherman I never catch one, and if I do I’m usually so amazed I never get it aboard. My wife, Mel, is a very good fisherman. Back in the days when we liked to eat blue fish, she caught quite a few. One day a very big one caught her as she was trying, kind creature that she is, to remove the hook from its mouth. It clamped down on her thumb like a snapping turtle.  Unlike I would have been, she was quite calm about it, despite the pain, and we all proceeded to try to figure out what to do.

We had to figure out what to do because it was obvious that the blue fish had already figured out what to do. He had figured that he couldn’t be filleted when he was clamped to the hand that he figured was going to fillet him.  There was another guy on the boat with us and we all at first considered filleting him anyway, but he thrashed around so much when we got the knife close we aborted the operation out of fear for Mel’s hand. We finally got two sets of pliers and a screwdriver. We pulled and pried his mouth open with the pliers and jammed the screwdriver in for extra leverage until Mel could pull her hand away. We didn’t eat that blue fish, but we did fillet it. I think its carcass probably made a lot of blue crabs happy down at the bottom.

So when you’re cruising, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for bites. There are many more bites available that I could talk about here, like mosquito bites, no-seeum bites, shark bites, Queen Triggerfish bites—just to mention a few. But when you’re buying one of those cute boating medical emergency pre-packed kits, ask the salesman if it includes anything for pig bites.  If he thinks you’re nuts, tell him that you read it here—that even pig bites are a hazard of cruising.

Copyright 2004-2008 Tom Neale