Monday, March 8, 2010

Cruising Destination: Coupeville, Washington

We visited Coupeville for the Penn Cove Musselfest on Whidbey Island.  It was a fabulous summer day for early March in the Puget Sound.  The festival celebrates North America's oldest mussel farm, Penn Cove Shellfish, LLC.  The farm has been operating about 40 years.  Penn Cove was selected because it had the highest density of mussels anywhere in Puget Sound.  Two rivers empty nutrients into the cove which is warmed by the rain shadow of Olympic Mountains.  The operation is all natural.  Mussels are cultivated on 42 rafts that hold about 35000 strings of disks.  Mussels spawn in the warm spring in the open water.  Their microscopic larvae float around until attaching to all surfaces in the cove.  Strings with disks tied to them hang 20 feet from rafts in 60 feet of cove water.   The young mussels attach en mass to these strings. Nine months to a year later, the strings are thinned so that the mussels will grow to market size.  The farm produces about 2 million pounds a year. Much of the catch is flown across the country and consumed within 24 hours.

The mussel festival includes open artitst studios, a classic car show, live music, beer and of course mussels and mussel chowder.  We ate at Toby's .  Toby's is a classic dive bar with a pool table, juke box and a bar that came around the horn.  The serve fresh steamed mussels with a variety of micro brews, including their own red ale. While Toby's is not an official Latitudes and Attitude's hang out, you can buy the magazine there.

Penn Cove is very sheltered and would make a great stop on the way to the Inside Passage. 

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