Tangier Island

And now to a totally different pace of life…

We left Reedville as the sun was rising and sailed eastwards to Tangier Island. The bay was calm, the skies clear. Our first glimpse of the island was of the blue water tower.

Mark called ahead (twice) to Mr Parks of Parks Marina, a crusty old waterman of the Chesapeake, to be told not to bother him as he could not hear Mark. We did a sail by to try and figure out where we would tie up. It did not look promising. Narrow berths with wooden pylons and extremely short piers, did not look accommodating for Bushranger. Three large vessels had already claimed their places at the T-dock. After passing twice we saw Mr Parks shuffle from his home and two sailors hurriedly walk down the T-dock to where they indicated Bushranger should come alongside.

Mark deftly maneuvered Bushranger between narrowly placed pylons and one of the large vessels, only to find we kissed the bottom in the shallow waters. Secured alongside, we thanked all and introduced ourselves to Mr Parks. He is an elderly gentleman and an ‘institution’ on Tangier Island. He is a thoroughly delightful ‘rough diamond’, a sweet talker and great raconteur. He has lived all of his 88 years on Tangier Island and is probably related to everyone, too.

Tangier Island is an island, 1.3 square miles, disappearing beneath the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. It is losing 16 feet of ground every year. It is an island with the highest point being only 4 feet above sea level. The island is composed of three ridges separated by marshes and tidal streams connected by bridges. At high tide seawater laps in front yards of some homes. Homes are being shored up with sandbags. Boaters are asked to take all rubbish with them when they leave, as removal of garbage from the island is expensive.

The population is 440 and they are descendants of Cornish stock. There is a strong Methodist influence here and the island is dry (no alcohol). There are numerous graveyards on the island, but what is amazing it that some homes have their own graveyards at their front gate. Members of family were allowed to be buried where they lived. Everyone is very friendly and wanting to share their way of life with visitors. Their language is descended from Elizabethan-era settlers, quite lyrical and at times hard to understand. There are three main family groups: Pruitts, Parks and Crocketts all related to each other.

The island is the home of watermen who have crab shanties standing on pilings out in the water. These are colourful and varied, with some in total disrepair. Crab pots abound everywhere.

To move around the island, the Turners (of Gregg and Carol limousine fame and more recently, postal services fame) hired a golf buggy. This is the mode of transport for all. We enjoyed driving over the quaint bridges, all over the small island. We visited the beach, gift shops, churches and museum. The ice-creamery was also a most welcome stop in scorching heat.

After a full day of sightseeing we enjoyed sundowners on our flybridge – the last we will have with Gregg and Carol for a very long time. They recommended this trip to Tangier Island and we are very grateful to have seen a unique way of life and an island which may not have a future in 10-20 years.

Such is Life!

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