Al came to borrow the clam rakes this morning. He could only find two rakes. Dave had borrowed the other three a few days ago. I guess he didn't bring them back. But Al knows where to go find them.
In case you've never been clamming, the rakes are similar to garden rakes -- but different. The handles are long and light (mine are hollow aluminum tubes). The last foot and a half is wood (so the end of the handle floats if you let go of the rake). Years ago the tines were fashioned from round stock, curved and pointed. Today the best rakes (like mine) are made with stainless steel kitchen knife blades instead of round metal tines. Where the tines attach to the handle there is metal mesh, sort of a shallow "basket."
Clamming is best done in shallow water, just ankle to knee deep. In cold weather clams burrow deep into the sandy bottom. In the warmer summer months they move closer to the sea floor. By pushing the rake across the bottom you can feel a gentle "clunk" when the tines scrape across a clam. Then it's just a simple matter to dig the points into the sand and pull back. This will snag the clam and capture it in the "basket." Rakes with knife blades are so much easier to push across the sandy bottom because the thin blades offer so little resistance.
Usually the clammer will pull a floating basket behind him. After an hour or so the basket will be full. The best part of clamming is feasting on the bounty gathered. Clam chowder, clams casino, steamed clams, or just plain raw clams. They're all delectable and a fitting reward for a day's labor.
[Our current monthly Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Kunigunde Guth Howard, published June 30, 2005. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news061505.htm.]