• close family • small boat • big world •

Tangier Island

October 25, 2013

by Cash
A broken barn

One of our stops in the Chesapeake Bay while heading down to Norfolk was Tangier Island.  Tangier Island is a small fishing island, where everyone still has an Elizabethan accent.  The island is very secluded, and not many new people go to live there.  Everything shuts down in the winter, when there are no tourists.  Most of the restaurants and shops are closed, and the island gets quiet.

Gravestones in the yard
Tangier Island was first noticed in 1670.  It was settled in the early 1700s, and from then until now, the bloodlines on the island have been mostly the same.  Some common ones are Crockett, Parks, and Pruitt.  In fact, the owner of the marina we stayed at is named Milton Parks.  He told us that as of now, there are about 500 people on the island.  Since the island is so small, everyone buries their relatives in their yard.  But because the island is so old, people's yards are filling up.  Now they have to transport them off island.

The island is unlike any you've ever seen before.  You sail through the small channel into the harbor, while battling two knots (a sailing term like miles per hour) of current.  Two knots is about 2.3 mph.  That's 2.3 mph of current.  The first thing you notice about the island
is the large marshland and abandoned docks and houses falling into the water.  Erosion and rising water level is a big problem on Tangier Island.  In 50 years, the island will probably be gone.  As you motor through the harbor, you see many pilings and pieces of wood sticking out of the water.  On the other side, you see docks covered in crab traps.  Some docks are washed away, and there are houses on small docks surrounded by water.  It looked like most of the houses were not in use.

The Tangier Island Beach
There's a ferry that comes every evening, bringing slightly more life.  Even so, the island seemed very empty and strange.  There were not many people, and many of them wouldn't really say hi passing on the street.  There is a lot of junk around, pieces of wood, and broken docks all over the place, making the island feel like a ghost town.  We speculated that they leave their stuff on there because it costs money to bring it off the island.  Tangier Island has a long, beautiful beach, which we walked along for two hours.  The the marshland with houses and wood dotting it looks really cool.  It seemed like a town with not much life, but it was a fun place to see.

A bunch of discarded engines in the mud

Two sunken boats

A view of the marsh with the town in the background

Aunt Lisa said...

What a fascinating island. I had no idea a place like that existed. I LOVE the photo of the marshland. Based on your description of the island, it was surprising to see the regular, normal-looking house (well, except for the graves). Your mom included a picture of you sailing with the Gorton's Fisherman - I guess you really do meet a lot of people in your travels!

Unknown said...

It must have been vary interesting learning about the island. Getting to eperiance such a non-modern place must have been an eye opening experiance for you.

-Matthew Granovsky