Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tangier Island

Hans has traveled all over the world for more than two decades.

Since meeting Hans six years ago, I too have done some extensive traveling.

But we are both in agreement that Tangier Island, located in good old Virginia, here in the USA, is perhaps one of the most interesting places we've ever had the luck to chance upon.

A while ago I posted this picture of Wilbur reading 'Isle of Dogs'.
The book (by Patricia Cornwell) portrays a very unflattering depiction of the people of Tangiers.

After visiting the island ourselves we have to tell you she was harshly unfair.

But the book is still hysterically funny and very much worth reading. Actually it made me want to visit the island just that much more and hey! that's gotta be good for business!

I guess you can tell you're in the south when you see the Confederate flag proudly aloft.

Hans (with the 'safari' hat I got him for his birthday) in front of the infamous Hilda Crocket's Chesapeake House that was mentioned in the book.

And Spanky's Place.
It was too much fun to actually find that the businesses portrayed in the book actually exist.

Tangier Island is about one and a half miles wide and 2 miles long and has a population of around 65o people.
The only way on and off the island is by boat or plane. Here is one of the ferries.

Transportation on the island is mainly golf carts, bicycles, and scooters. There are only a handful of cars.
And one helicopter. A doctor and his wife moved to the island a few years ago and he has a helicopter pad in his yard.

Tangier Island's economy depends primarily upon crabs. The watermen are up long before sunrise in search of that odd creature that walks sideways and swims upright all the while waving their claws at you in a frantic, hello it's nice to meet you but I have places to go!, kind of way!

Not only do the boats sport women's names, most have both first and middle names.

It reminded me of the old Petticoat Junction TV show (yes, I'm that old!) with Betty Jo, Billy Jo, Bobby Jo, etc...

Once through the narrow channel (with mighty strong currents!) you enter the town and it's just like an alley. An alley of water instead of pavement.

Docks full of crab traps line both sides of the alley.

Our Chesapeake/Potomac Cruising Guide was a huge help to us during this trip; supplying us with information on shoals, hidden pilings, warnings of strong currents or difficult to find markers etc...

I didn't even realize at the time that the boat pictured here is the one that's used in the cruising guide on the Tangier page!

See what this waterman is doing with his shirt? Because of the heat, I did this more times than I can count.

And it still didn't help!

Just through the channel is the only marina on the island.
The cruising guide mentions that Mr. Parks, the owner, will be glad to help you tie up but if he's not there just go ahead and do it yourself.

See that big boat? They offered to have their boat moved to the side of the building so we could tie up in that front spot. The outgoing tide was very strong and getting into a slip would have been challenging so we took them up on their offer.

Hans had called Mr. Parks the day before to make sure he could accommodate us as anchoring isn't recommended in these waters.

What a conversation.

Hans: Is this Parks Marina?

Mr.Parks: Yaassss.

Hans: Do you have any slips available tomorrow?

Mr.Parks: Yaasss.

Hans: How much will it cost?

Mr.Parks: How big a boat?

Hans: 35 feet long with a 15 foot beam.

Mr.Parks: That be 30 dollars plus 5 for electric.

Hans: Do you want to give me a slip number in case you're not there when we show up?

Mr.Parks: I'll call you on the radio tomorrow around two o'clock.

Hans: Ok, my name is Hans and we're on the Knotty Cat.

Mr.Parks: Oh, I won't remember your name so I'm gonna call you George. So when you hear someone calling George tomorrow, you'll know it's you.

We ended up getting there around noon so we never did get to hear Mr. Parks calling George. But when we cruised into town there he was on the dock and when he saw us he shouted, "Is that you George? You're early!" And even though he still had on his church clothes he helped us tie up.

Tangier is full of cats and thirty one of them belong to Mr. Parks. Actually they belong to Mr. Parks' wife.

This particular tiger cat was very bold and insolent, and let Wilbur and I know that it wouldn't have any problems kicking some Pit Bull ass, so we kept away from it.

Big cats, little cats, baby cats.

I'm so mad that I didn't get a picture of the black and white cat who stomped past us carrying a huge crab in its mouth.


Yes a speed limit sign! With radar no less!

Isle of Dogs mentions painting white stripes on the pavement so that helicopters could monitor speeders on the island (pure satire) so I'm wondering if the Radar sign is a joke.

I didn't ask because I was told it's not a good idea to mention the book to the islanders!

The island has a lot of churches and cemeteries. The Pruitts, Crockets, and Parks' fill most of them.

Mr. Parks from the marina is 80 years old and was born on the island.

This is in someones yard.

Hans and Wilbur waited patiently at the Tangier Museum while I walked around inside. It's very nice and modern and full of history. Tangier has been in National Geographic several times and their restaurants have won a lot of awards.
Celebrities galore have visited the island and Paul Newman wanted to film Message in a Bottle there. The town council voted it down 6-0. The reasons they listed were, blasphemy, and sex. He was on the island when they gave him the verdict and while they felt badly about disappointing him, they stuck to their guns.

These garbage cans are all over the island. The doctor with the helicopter had them made by some Pennsylvania Amish and then donated them to the town.

A variety of shacks line crab alley. Some are in good shape and some aren't.

This is the remains of one shack.

We came in one side of the island and exited out the other on our way back north.

Tangier Island has everything you could need.

School: grades 1-12.

Community Building with full basketball court.

Long sandy beach that I never got to see. It was way across the island and it was too stinking hot to walk there.

Huge landing strip for airplanes.

Post office, market, restaurants, churches, a brand new medical building (very expensive at 2 million dollars according to Mr. Parks whose daughter is a PA there).

However, they don't have a vet and you can't purchase alcohol anywhere on the island. Years ago a bootlegger punched the mayor and it's been forbidden ever since. We were very anxious when we heard about the alcohol ban and when we finished our tour (via Mr. Parks golf cart, and you should have seen us! Three adults and a pit bull all crammed together. But it was fun!) we frantically counted our cans of beer! Luck was with us and we had enough to get us through our stay!
This was by far my favorite stop during our trip and as we waved and shouted our goodbyes to Mr. Parks, I assured him we'd be back next year (after checking our beer supply!!).

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