Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Having run aground three times in the narrow entry channel we were feeling a little apprehensive as we approached the dock on the island of Tangier in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.  An elderly man surrounded by two dogs and several cats instructed us into a berth.  Thruuuugoooosh.  And we went aground again still at least 10 meters from the berth.  “I haven’t seen the waters this low in over 30 years”  he yelled out at us “Try pulling up on the main dock.”  We did try this and ended up running pretty solidly aground about two meters from the dock.  Milton, as the dockmaster proved to be, instructed us to tie up as is and tighten up our lines.  “I’ll just take you over to the restaurant now”  said Milton and we could hardly refuse.  Turned out that Milton is over 80 and has been living on Tangier, working as a waterman and running the dock all his life.  The restaurant was closed for an hour to allow the staff to attend the Christmas bazaar at the school.  Milton piled us back into his golf cart, the primary mode of transport on the small island, and took us over to the school.  Here we found a community gym filled with Christmas stalls selling various Christmas supplies.  An hour later, Milton picked us up again and took us back to the restaurant.  “I’ll pick you up tomorrow and take you for a tour of the island,” were his parting words, “no charge, it’s included in the docking fees.”

So Milton picked us up and took us on a tour of Tangier.  This tiny island in the middle of the Chesapeake houses 500 people.  The streets are narrow and lined with small wooden houses built close together.  It has that special small island feel coupled with a really precious thing that I find difficult to capture in words.  Perhaps a tone of times gone by when people relied on each other and their community and natural resources that they gathered themselves.  Sadly, once again the decline of the fishing industry has taken its toll and there is no longer much of a livelihood on the island for the next generation.  

On Tangier we also met Melvin and Deb. This father and daughter pair were travelling down to Norfolk, where she would disembark to head back to New York and where he would be joined by his girlfriend and continue down to the south of Florida. Melvin’s boat, the Fa-Cha-Dit is full of fascinating items collected over the years.  A highlight for Emma and Macsen was his puppet collection.  As soon as we walked in the door Melvin had roped Seb into putting on a show with a jumble of characters including an Octopus (great puppet) and Captain Mel.  After a cup of coffee and cosy chat we parted with wishes on both sides to meet again on the journey south.  

There is no bank machine on Tangier and Seb and I did not have enough cash on hand for our docking fees.  The restaurant offered to give us cash from our credit card but on the day that we left they didn’t have enough money in their till.   Milton saw absolutely no problem with this and provided us with a self addressed envelope and sent us off on our way with a big kiss and a smile.  Great that there are still people in this world that trust others.  Needless to say we ran to the first bank machine we could find when we arrived in Deltaville and sent the cash off to him with a grateful note.  

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