By Patty Smith and Andy Smith, EAA 1085939
When the tides are right on the west side of Cook Inlet and south of Kalgin Island, bush pilots flock to an area known as Polly Creek to harvest razor clams. We didn’t quite know what to expect going for the first time and it was nothing short of AMAZING! Since we weren’t familiar with the area, we flew out with our friends (Carrie Ann and Andy Mueller) in formation from PABV, first crossing the Cook Inlet (flying south) and then we followed the coastline the rest of the way around 1500 AGL. When we were about 15 miles out, we heard over the frequency (122.9) that the flats were just starting to appear. Landing on the tidal flats looked intimidating but Andy nailed it with a 15 knot crosswind in the Pacer, and it was almost just like landing on pavement (but way more intense).
What we experienced coming in was organized chaos. There were roughly 10 airplanes behind us staging for a landing and we could see at least 40 airplanes already parked and spread throughout the flats in small groups of anywhere from three to eight airplanes in each cluster. I was very impressed with the radio communications between pilots in this high traffic area (the kind of traffic that your average controller in a Class D tower might get a little worked up over). It was beyond busy and in an uncontrolled Class G airspace. There were a few charter boats intentionally beached in the flats, and groups of people spreading out like ants as far as my eyes could see from their “bases” eagerly digging away. There was a lot to factor in, but it all came together beautifully.
I have one piece of advice above all else when going clamming. Get a clam gun, (which is a hollow cylinder with a handle and a hole in the cap, used to dig up clams by suction). They are called “razor clams” for a reason. Andy (PIC/husband) sliced up his finger rather badly chasing a “ghost clam” way down a hole we dug with a shovel. We spent a good majority of the short time we had there fumbling around with our caveman tools while shouting, laughing, and trying to chase bubbles in the sand with our bare hands. Thankfully we crossed paths with the Spences, and they let us try out one of their clam guns. Our lives forever changed for the better. Steven and La’net had already filled their buckets and were done for the day and well knew what they were doing. It was so much easier for us after that, and our harvest tripled in minutes.
We really wanted to keep at it, and had almost filled our buckets, but it was already time to head out. We had only been there for two-and-a-half hours, but the tide was turning in on us and the sky was quickly filling with traffic trying to beat the rapidly approaching waters. Andy managed to take a count of the airplanes we could see on the flats and there were roughly 70 out there at the same time. It almost felt like a fly-in event, but it was just a bunch of Alaskans doing what Alaskans do when the tides are super-low, and the weather allows. We had a fantastic day with our aviation family, and we will be out there again when everything aligns just right for the next good Clam Jam!