The Best Pier and Oyster debauchery

Harford pier (Pier Number 3) in Avila is one of the eight wonders of the world. There is so much to do and appreciate here, with an

emphasis on the sea, it is always breath taking. We had made a play date with our new friends (Becky and Isaac) who just moved to Pismo area and we sought to demonstrate to them the coolness of Avila (not the remodeled downtown, while like a quaint little beach town, does not have theWOW factor of the pier area.) I swear I was a Japanese sailor in a previous life, because a port as authentic as this one is the only place I find true peace.

We met at Fat Cats, a restaurant that serves the fishing types early morning breakfast and the tourist with no desire to eat a live wiggling treat. We strolled along the mountainside seeing the raccoons playing in the dumpsters on the way to the boat yard. This heavenly habitation is where the yacht owners work on their vessels and is known as Dry Dock. Gary and I spent a blissful 2 years in this yard rebuilding our 33 ft. Yorktown sailboat. We met some outrageous, wonderful people, while arguing over who was going to scrape the bottom and who was going to treat the teak.

“Bob” the guy who lives in the 4 x 4 shack, has trained crows to eat out of his hand and paints the bottom of boats for their owners (the paint is copper and lead based to keep the marine life off the bottom and highly toxic). His beard touches his belly bottom and he is either 35 or 85 with no teeth and always calls everyone “Kid”.

Nick is our other favorite stop; he has built, from scratch a magnificent vessel to take to the Caribbean and sail. His catamaran is 75 ft.long and 50 ft. wide, sleeps six, and is a wonder to behold. It has been in the boat yard for 5 years now as he runs out of money- makes more – then starts again.

Marty the grumpy guy (with a heart of gold) who runs the boat yard and a whole cast of salt-in-their-veins regulars that I adore.

Down the pier we ambled and revealed where the party boats left from, how we slung our dingy into the ocean and we stopped at BJ’s seafood. BJ’s has been a staple on the pier for over 17 years. Being a true family run business, his children (now teenagers) learned to walk on the rickety pier. They offer LIVE seafood for sale. Not just filets, but the whole fish. It is rather like a mini aquarium here. The kids sold cupcakes on the weekends to buy their toys, then video games, computers, and now college trips. BJ’s has over 20 different varieties of fish to choose. You can pick out a live fish, have them filet it and have sashimi the likes of which you can never compare. Huge busloads of smart Japanese tourist do this daily and I learned to have soy and ginger in my pockets to share in this epic event.

We splashed into the oyster pool, choosing 3 dozen small live Washington’s as our treat. While selecting, three huge pelicans landed on a closed tank and BJ commenced to hand feeding them fish carcasses, while calling to them grumpily by name.

We hiked the rest of the way down the pier admiring the skiffs, fishing fleet and sailboat swaying on their moorings. There was a brisk wind, but the sun warmed your face as it always does in Avila. Past the working dock, we visited Pete’s Peirside one of my favorite places to eat. A grumpy girl named Courtney used to own it, but once motherhood took over her life, I think she sold this eatery/fish market. Halibut Burritos as big as your head, sashimi plates swimming in tatki sauce and live crabs plucked from the tanks and boiled for your pleasure make this a must stop restaurant.

We lugged up just about the end of the pier and grabbed some crab traps to sit on while we shuck our oysters. I dangled over the side of the pier for rinsing and our shucker (Isaac) donned a glove to wrestle the mollusks from their shells.

While we prepared our feast we witnesses a pelican and a harbor seal playing below together in the sea. The seal was pulling on the pelican’s feet dunking him under the waves, while the pelican nipped at the seal with its deadly claw at the end of his beak. Back and forth they went with neither wanting the play to end. It was an amazing inter-species show that amused and bewildered.

Our oysters were pried open, rinsed in champagne, then topped with lemon/lime juice, horseradish, cocktail sauce, tobacco and pickled ginger. We tasted many different combinations, and some with only the sea to flavor the oysters. Becky had brought chocolate dipped strawberries, sharp Italian cheddar cheese, and Brie that filled out this feast along with the three bottles of Dreamweaver champagne. The oysters were so fresh and supple we ohhed with pleasure during every bite. We toasted with champagne, oysters, and even chocolate. Gary and I shared tales of living on and owning a sailboat, explained why we loathe seals, and distributed comical antidotes about our teenagers and why we are glad they are all grown now.

People came by to revel in our pleasure and to learn about the oysters while the boys took the empty pile of shells to pelt the sea lions that commandeered the boat landing on the west side of the pier. This 9-year-old boy hoax made Gary very happy, as his last contact with seals is when they were trying to sink and had destroyed our newly restored sailboat.

We sauntered, sated and a bit loopy back down the pier as children needed to be picked up and ice cream needed to be consumed. While walking, we witness a seagull hanging gently off the back of a girl walking down the pier. Still soaring it used the thermals off her body to maintain a 2-inch distance from her hoody. Magical.

Walk down pier number 3 and discover this paradise. Watch the sailboats sway, grab a dozen oysters, eat at Pete’s or Old Port Inn, hear the seals bark, watch the pelicans beg and feel the ocean breeze in your face. I swear this atmosphere makes any food taste better.

We followed the sun (it sets early here and gets COLD fast) to the downtown area of Avila so Gary could get his much desired Hawaiian shaved ice from Reimer’s Ice Cream shop. They make the ice cream and it is delectable. He chose a scoop of vanilla and topped with with shaved ice drenched in tiger’s blood. To sweet and cold for this girl, I just kept drinking.