Gus Abbate of East Meadow and his daughter-in-law Val Abbate of Southampton were first in line at 11:45 a.m. Friday to buy crabs in front of Bob Bourguignon’s seafood stand at his home on Flanders Road.
“Oh, definitely we are first in line,” Ms. Abbate said. “We try to get here a 1/2 hour early and we always get the crabs. There is none better and the price is right.”
Just before noon, a white pickup rolls down the broken clam shell covered driveway and Bob pokes his head out the window and says in a hearty voice: “How y’all doing?” There is a rush at first and the crabs sell out within 35 minutes as the crowd then dissipates. Bob and his friend Joe Cavaluzzi take to the shade and sip on bottles of cold water.
In addition to the blue claws, both large and a bit smaller, Bob, who refers to himself as “the clam man,” sells clams, mussels and steamers. He gets the other seafood from wholesale fishing outlets such as Maine lobster, shrimp, porgies, flounder, fluke, cod, tuna, tilapia, catfish and scungeli. He’s been selling at his roadside stand since 1984. The nearly 75-year-old is out on the water six days a week starting at 5 a.m. hauling in clams and crabs by himself. He said he learned from his trade from old-time fishermen in Baldwin and Freeport.
The 16- and 18-foot wood and fiberglass boats he uses he built by hand himself. He says he crabs wherever he can find crabs; he has 80 traps total.
“I’ve never had a job in my life,” he said. “I don’t know why I do it. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a job it’s a way of life like farming. You do what you like to do. It’s a hard life. You’ve got to love it.”
This year the crabs aren’t as plentiful as before and when asked if water quality was a factor, he said: “Things run in cycles. Last year we had a good year. Things can pick up later in the summer. You never know. That’s fishing.”
The stand is open from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday just past the Big Duck on the south side of Flanders Road.