Unforgettable Tangier Island

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My husband and I took a memorable day trip yesterday on the Joyce Marie II, captained by Mark Crockett, a Tangier Island, VA native.

Tangier Island Virginia is in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.  It is a one hour ferry-boat ride, 15 miles out from Onancock Virginia.  Crisfield Maryland is the nearest neighbor.  You can also go there by air.  Tangier is so remote the 400 residents speak their own dialect.  Some call it Elizabethan English.  Most folks use golf carts or bikes for travel around the island.

The people were friendly and cheerful. I loved listening to their unique way of speaking and hearing of their way of life.  The crab-based dishes at the local restaurant were delicious.  We took a ride with a tour guide, then we walked.  Everywhere people were smiling and saying hi.

Some interesting facts from our tour guide:  There is a nurse-practioner living on the island.  A doctor visits weekly.  Boats bring people and supplies 6 days a week.  If you cannot wait for the grocer to stock what you need, you can get it from Amazon in a day.  They have a mayor, a post office and one policeman.  It is a “dry” island:  no alcohol is served in the restaurants.  There is no jail.  Locals know if they misbehave, they get a one-way boat trip to the mainland.  The highest point on the island is a little bridge.  They joke about getting nose-bleeds or ear pops going over in their carts. They have one school with about 60 kids in it.  Each grade has a teacher.  They have a water treatment plant and an incenerator.  The incenerator takes care of the garbage.  Homes are for sale ranging in price from 70K to 140K.

A lady in Onancock told me the island church holds a vacation Bible school in the summer and kids from Onancock love it because they can stay on the island for a week and have freedom to ride bikes or walk to the store for ice cream in a very safe place.

The two main sources of income are crabbing and tourists.

But there is a sadness about Tangier too.  It is going away, eroding at 15 feet per year.  When the children graduate high school most leave and only return to visit.  A unique culture and a peaceful place is disappearing.

It will cost millions of dollars to protect Tangier and build a wall to stop the erosion, but that may not be enough.  Working on the water is a hard life, so saving the waterman and their way of life is also an issue.

We will not forget our visit to Tangier.  If you get to Virginia’s Eastern Shore, hope you will visit Tangier, too.

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