Tangier Island, VA

Monday, September 18, 2006
Virginia, USA

037-49.740 N
075-59.700 W
Marine forecast for this location

Ahoy from Tangier Island!

Tangier Island is a small island (about 4x2 miles) on the east side of the Chesapeake bay and is about 20 mile to the NE of Deltaville. Stepping from your boat onto the docks feels like a step back in time. Maybe that's overstating things a bit, but it's clear that Tangier developed pretty much on its own for a long time. The accent of the locals reminds me of a very heavy Maine accent and its so thick that a conversation between locals is very difficult to understand by outsiders. At one point the island had 1,200 residents, but that dropped to a low of 600 and I guess that it's back up to around 800. We're staying at Park's Marina and according to Milton Park who owns the marina, 60% of the population on Tangier is related to them. Checking the grave stones by the church I wouldn't argue. That does make you wonder how people find anyone to marry!

Tangier has two major industries: Tourism and Crabbing. Every day multiple ferries bring scads of people to the island, swelling the population tremendously. I must admit that other than wandering around and looking at the houses, I couldn't figure out what the draw is. There is a long spit of beach at the S end of the island, so perhaps tourists head out there.

Crabbing is the sustaining industry of the area. The channel through the island is lined with crab shacks which house the crabs until they molt. The crabs are trapped and only those about to molt are kept. These are brought back to the crab shacks where they're kept until they shed their shells. Then the crabs are sold as soft shell crabs and are consumed in whole once the digestive track and gills are removed. According to Milton, this has been a bad year for crabbing and at age 75 he finally gave up the business.

Hurricane Isabel ravished the island several years ago. Recently the remains of hurricane Ernesto came through here with peak winds of 92 MPH. We were told that until just recently there was water covering the area. They had a tidal surge of about 4.5 feet and many of the houses had up to 2 feet of water in them. We saw a series of houses being jacked up several feet and raised foundations being installed. Milton said that the women enjoy being evacuated to the mainland as they view it as a mass shopping trip!

Today we're headed to Crisfield which is only about 12 miles from here. It's a beautiful day and I'm looking forward to the trip.

-- Geoff & Sue

For the cruiser:

The charts and guide books show that the channel to the bay only has 4-5' of water, but according to the locals the channel was dredged to 10' quite a few years ago and the charts were never updated. We came in at low tide and saw no less than 9 feet and often quite a bit more. The depths reported outside of the channel seemed accurate and we typically saw 8' (with brief lower blips) approaching the channel. There's a strong current that whips through the channel which is not synchronized to slack tide and this adds a degree of challenge when pulling into the slips which are perpendicular to the channel. The charts also show a power cable over the channel, but that is now underwater after the boat next to us in Deltaville hit it years ago.

Park's marina charges $30/night for boats over 30' and $5 for power. The docks are well maintained and Milton is quite the fountain of information. Milton gave us a ride around the island on his golf cart and then we walked the same route (not that there are many routes that you can take.)

Log ID: 898

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Photos/Video: Photo Album Tangier Island, VA 

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