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On The Hunt: “Crabbing” in Eleuthera

In the early morning hours, right after a rain shower, just as the sun was rising, we set out on the back of a truck, to a dirt road through never-ending bushes.  Our goal: to come back with a bucket full of crabs for Sunday dinner.

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The road to the hunt.

I’d never been crab catching or “crabbing” before. In Nassau (the “city”), when I wanted crabs, I’d go to any of the many roadside vendors and bargain for what I needed. This morning, however, in true island style, it would be my turn to catch them.

In The Bahamas, we generally eat land crabs and the southern end of Eleuthera, is where the black crabs live.  Although they are called black crabs, these crabs are of various colours – from black, deep red and orange, to yellow.  Black crabs are known for the sweetness of their meat and usually come out during the daytime. It wasn’t long before we heard and saw them everywhere.

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Along the path, we saw hundreds, if not thousands of “sancos” – as the crabs that are too small to eat are called.  The larger ones, live further in the bush and so we pushed in deeper. Once we arrived to our spot, we hopped off the truck and headed into the bushes, which came alive as the crabs scattered.

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Reconnaissance…

The key to catching a crab is two-fold: First, you must have a strong stick. The stick is used to subdue and distract the crab, allowing you to pick it up. Second, you must have the proper attitude. As our host, Auntie Monica – an Eleuthera native and crabbing veteran – told us: “You are in charge!”. I would watch Monica as she battled with the crabs and she’d say things like “Come here to me!” and “Uh-uh, you’re mine today!”.

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Along the trail we came across other “crabbers” and, as is customary, said our “Good mornings”, exchanged pleasantries, and shared a familiar ease that only those in the hunt know. 🙂 We saw husbands and wives, grandmothers and even children darting in and out of the bushes searching for crabs. It all came together for me when Monica said:

“God sent these crabs here for us so that we could never go hungry. I can get up, catch a few crabs and cook them with rice, or cassava and have a meal.”

For me, this was just another great adventure that I could write about. For those living here on the island, it is a way of life. This wasn’t about having fun for them; this is the everyday.

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Sitting in the bucket, waiting….

After a few hours of hunting and catching, we finally decided to pack it in. Tired, dirty and with numerous scratches about my body and an itchy rash, we had collected four dozen crabs! I felt victorious and proud that I had assisted in such a great haul.

Confession: I didn’t actually *catch* any – but I held the bucket. A role that should not be taken lightly as I had to maneuver through the bushes as the bucket filled up.  Eventually that bucket got heavy! I promise, the next time however, I will be the hunter. Like Xena – Crabbing Princess.