Special Edition: Tangier Island, Virginia Excursion Part 1 of 2
Great Loop May 31, 2017.
This is a Special Edition of the Sailing Saga of the Sea Marie I want to share with you. I am still recovering from Covid19 and even though I had my 2 vaccinations and 1 booster it knocked me for a loop, I do feel better than I did last week but a little more rest and I should be back to near normal.
So, enjoy this 2 part Special Edition, and a hearty welcome to all the newest subscribers.
Looking back in retrospect I should have spent more time here on Tangier Island. Living on an island in the Chesapeake Bay that is vanishing right before our eyes pose challenges very few of us ever face.
This island is rich in history, according to Wikipedia: "Captain John Smith “discovered” Tangier in 1608, and the British claimed it. The first permanent settlers arrived in 1686. In 1812, the Royal Marines built Fort Albion, which is now completely underwater."
GREAT LOOP: May 31, 2017. Tangier Island. 26.5-mile. Left Walden's Marina on a calm sea. A couple of hours later the wind and waves increase and the water got rough halfway to Tangier Island. I still had more than 2 hours to motor over. I revved up my throttle to pick up my pace a bit. Soon I found myself on a collision course with a downbound freighter. With plenty of room to maneuver, I thought the captain would steer his ship to my stern but instead turned to head for my bow. Nice move Captain! I had to make a few course corrections to avoid being plowed under. Being a vessel of only 22 feet I get no respect. (With apologies to Rodney Dangerfield)
As I got closer to Tangier I noticed a 28-foot powerboat heading to the island as I overheard a call from their VHF radio to Park's Marina with no reply. I would follow them behind in their wake. My chart plotter showed two icons for the marina.
As I got closer to the first icon there on my starboard side was a boathouse on the old wooden dock with a weather-worn sign barely readable “Parks Marina”. I passed the dock going with a swift tidal current and then turned around to dock on my port side using the current to slow me down, a maneuver I learned on the Mississippi River at Hoppies Marina. The cruiser I followed had docked on the left side of the L dock and I was heading to the line of pilings on the dock in front of the boathouse.
The Captain of the cruiser, Joe was on hand to take my dock lines and tie me off facing the swift current. With the boat safely tied up, Joe and I went looking for anybody from the marina. No one was around. Back on the boat I hooked up my shore power cable to a power pedestal on the dock and tied off Mickey who was already eager to explore the dock. Joe and his wife had been here before and knew of 2 restaurants in the nearby town. After making sure Mickey was alright below in the cabin I went exploring myself. A small town with a population of a little over 700 people with an alley-sized Main Ridge Rd. where the residents are using golf carts, bicycles, and motorbikes. It became obvious the island has more cemeteries plots than living inhabitants. Each house off of this main street has most of its backyards devoted to family plots.
As I walked down the road I witnessed the flashing lights of an ambulance and a yellow police car blocking a side road. A nearby resident told me an elderly woman broke her hip and was being transported via helicopter to the mainland. The unfortunate accident happened the day before but no one could get her off the island due to bad weather. Overhead and over my shoulder, I hear the sound of helicopter blades getting louder as the helicopter approached the small landing strip on the west side of the island. Much like the islands in Lake Erie, the islands here in the Chesapeake Bay have very limited medical facilities.
I stopped for lunch at Fisherman's Corner Restaurant and had a cheeseburger and chips. Sadly, I didn't get to talk with any of the locals yet, 4 employees were at a table when I walked in then they scattered to the back room when I entered. The young waitress was friendly but not overly talkative and I was the only patron there. I was in particular interested in hearing the distinct English dialect that is noted among some of the residents.
According to Wikipedia: “Many people who live in Tangier speak a distinctive dialect of American English. Scholars have disputed how much of the dialect is derived from the British English lexicon and phonetics. Linguist David Shores has argued that, while it may sound like a British variety of English, the dialect is a distinct creation of its own time and place off the eastern shore of Virginia. The persistence of this dialectal variety is often attributed to the geographic isolation of the population from the mainland.”
A few steps across the street was the town's grocery store worthy of my visit. You can easily tell this is a cat-loving island. A third of the main shelf was occupied by stacked cans and bags of cat food. The meat counter was empty as fresh meat and other supplies are boated in on Thursdays which would be tomorrow. I asked for ice and they were out with a shipment coming in the next day. I found that odd as they have electricity brought over to the island via an underwater cable they didn’t have ice-making machines.
On my return to the dock, I met up with the legendary Milton Parks, the owner of the marina. At 86 he was placing a license plate sticker on his motor scooter's back plate. Says he's getting around fine now having suffered a broken hip himself in Aug of last year.
“Just suffering from some arthritis in his back”, he says.
Paid him 25 bucks for the dockage and he let me slide for the 5 bucks electric service. He takes cash only. We chatted for a while when he asked me how old I was,
"65 years", I replied.
He turned his head to look me square in the eye and said, "Love, if you get past 66 you'll be ok."
Then he went on to say many people here pass away at 66. Well, that’s encouraging.
Another sailboat arrived, a 27 ft Watkins, named Stow-Away from Phoenixville, PA. The couple was heading for a rendezvous with other Watkins owners at Deltaville and spending the night here. They were heading for the other restaurant Lorraine's Seafood Restaurant across from the one I had lunch. Nancy invited me to join them. I accepted. We chatted as we placed our orders and I had to excuse myself to make sure Mickey was safe inside the cabin. Otherwise, he would get himself entangled in who knows what. Returned about 15 minutes later and the food didn't arrive yet. Nancy's husband whose name I forgot was an attorney. My Philly steak sandwich arrived and it was delicious. I saved half for later and shared some with Mickey who loved it as much as I did.
The boathouse I mentioned was really a storage shed with restrooms and a single shower in the back. Got in a shower earlier and notice the water was soft as it took lots of water to get the soap off your body. Finished the other half of the Philly steak, got some evening photos in, and settled in for the night. Tomorrow I cross the bay to Buzz's Marina. Fair Winds and Gentle seas.
More photos in Part 2 of 2 to follow.
Gloria Koster Crawford Did you notice the names on the tombstones? Only 4 families!
Henry Krzemien RN Pruitt, Crocket and Parks. There were so many cemeteries scattered all around the town.
Dale Genther There is a 1925 Buy Boat that is normally in Rock Hall harbor named P.E.Pruitt, built by Paul Pruitt. The same Pruitts from the Tangier area. She is berthed near the marina at Harbor Shack where you are staying. The guy who owns her, Kevin Flynn, owns Harbor Shack and the marina you’re at. I'm sure he would have enjoyed meeting you, but he's only here on weekends.
Henry Krzemien RN Thanks Dale for your gracious hospitality. Definitely the highlight of my journey. If there's anything I can do to repay you say the word. The P. E. Pruitt is a magnificent boat. A lot of work and TLC went to make her look beautiful. I would have enjoyed meeting him and hearing the history of the boat. Take care, my friend, and hope you enjoy reading about the rest of my journey. The best and probably the worst are yet to come.
Update: Milton Parks passes away on May 18, 2022, at the age of 90. I was indeed fortunate to have made his acquaintance back in 2017. May his kindness and generosity be always remembered.
Sailing Saga of the Sea Marie is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.