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Day 6 – Port Harvey and the Ratfish

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Here's how far we've come so far (different color for each travel day):

Anacortes to port harvey

This afternoon when I pulled up one of our crab traps, I found a very strange thing. There was a fish attached to the outside of the crab trap. He looked as if he had been, um, food for something else down there.

As I was trying to get him loose from the crab trap, I realized he was attached to the net by a little protruding piece of cartilage that popped out from the top of his head.

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He was golden and spotted and had huge green reflective eyes. He looked like a deep sea fish, but like nothing I'd ever seen. He had some little appendages that hung down underneath that looked a little bit like feet…

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Since we had internet, several of us got to researching online…trying to figure out what the heck this fish was. Computers, tablets, iPhones…all working on the problem. No one in our group had ever seen anything like it. The thing that came out of its head was hard, cartilage, and ended in a tiny white ball that looked like it had little spikes all over it. SUPER WEIRD.

We'd gotten close via the internet, but then someone took a photo into George, our host here at Port Harvey, and he said it was a ratfish. More internet research and I found an image that matched perfectly: The Spotted Ratfish.

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Turns out the strange appendages are used during fish sex. The claspers underneath (similar to those on a shark) are used to transfer sperm to the female during copulation. Male sharks usually bite the female’s flank or pectoral fin to maintain position while they are coupled, but ratfish have a more unusual strategy. They have another clasper in the middle of their foreheads (I saw it referred to as a "girl grabbing appendage" in another article), and this extra appendage has tiny barbs on its underside and can be used like a Velcro covered arm to stop the male from falling away before he’s finished. [source]

It just gets weirder and weirder, doesn't it? These fish can hang out as deep as 3000 feet and are not uncommon in the Pacific Northwest, but it's rare to get to see one. I think perhaps it was going for crab, got caught on the trap, and then some crab got him first.

After we solved that mystery, we headed up to the Red Shoe (the restaurant here at Port Harvey) for some of George's famous pizza. It was fantastic, and we all had a great time.

Here's George behind the counter:

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Improvements, in yellow:

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All lined up:

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George took orders from everyone tonight for his famous cinnamon rolls for morning. This place is wonderful. There's even a Port Harvey Yacht Club! We joined tonight, because it's fun to support such a cool place and nice people. $40 to join gets you reduced moorage rates when you come back, invitations to fun events, and this super cool PHYC burgee:

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There's a big PHYC dinner here on August 28th, so maybe if we're coming back through we can be here for that. Either way, it's nice to be part of the group and we'll definitely plan to stop by on our way back south.

Thanks for the great hospitality, George! (And for identifying that weirdass fish!)

  • I can’t tell you what a cool tool the Quad Copter is. Beautiful shots! I hope you post more videos… I can only imagine the possibilities, including wildlife.
    thanks,
    Box Canyon Mark

  • Ron Rudolph

    The quadcopter videos are great. Also loved the Erik Satie music over Pierre’s.
    Ron Rudolph, 2014 Flotilla #1

  • Kevin McLaughlin

    A little Satie with your flight video…nice version