Wednesday morning brought the ferry ride to Tangier Island for one of us, and brought keeping each other company in Onancock for the other two. As for the latter, there’s not much to report. No photos from the hair place that did a masterful job for Dana. But here’s a little something, particularly for Presbyterians.
Also Onancock has a tree that by our rough calculation is four Dana wingspans in circumference.
Despite being well up a creek, Onancock was a bustling port back in the years before Salem started hanging witches. Now—according to Better Living Magazine—it’s one of the “Coolest Small towns in the South,” and like a place “plucked right out of a Nicholas Sparks novel,” which probably means something to people who read Nicholas Sparks novels. We found the wharf to be best of all.
As for Tangier, it’s just about as odd as Doug anticipated after reading Chesapeake Requiem, a most excellent book by Earl Swift. Mark Crockett—the knowledgeable Tangierman captaining the box-stern deadrise ferry—said Swift provided an accurate depiction of things. The nice ladies at the history museum, however, clucked in their funny accents that Swift shouldn’t have included certain stuff, but then both of them allowed that they hadn’t actually read the book.
A few interesting tidbits about Tangier. In 1814 the British built Fort Albion on a part of the island that’s now under about fifteen feet of water. Supposedly the Tangier preacher provided a sermon on the beach before they left to sack Baltimore, warning them the attack was doomed. The bad guys took off anyway, unsuccessfully shelled Fort McHenry, indirectly gave us the National Anthem during that same battle, and now they’re stuck with cricket and soccer instead of football and baseball and probably regret the decision to ignore the Tangier preacher.
Since then, generations of Tangier watermen have supplied most of the blue crabs consumed in the world. In fact, to this day visitors only run into women and children, because the men all are out carefully placing crab traps in the areas they anticipate Tumbleweed will want to go. Judging by the boats and crab shacks and houses, every family is in the crabbing business.
Thanks to rising seas, the island now has shrunk to three small ridges suitable for buildings, with encroaching marshes. The highest land is about two feet above sea level.
Small roads and no gas stations mean mostly golf carts, which jammed the area around Swain Memorial Methodist Church for the funeral of a beloved 93-year-old woman who spent all of those years attending that same church. Odd funeral, again because virtually no men were around to attend.
As the Bay water rises, not surprisingly the island continues to shrink. Heck, there’s no room left in the small cemeteries so front yards make up the difference. Which at a minimum makes Halloween much easier for anyone willing to use grandpa’s grave as a prop.
Tangier has a bit of a Summerisle vibe, where the islanders all were happy and then—spoiler alert—to ensure a bountiful harvest they locked Edward Woodward in a giant flammable wicker man and set it ablaze. Hopefully it won’t come to that in Virginia, but unless these honest, hard-working, well-intentioned folk come to accept that science and math don’t give a damn about religion or politics, their future is doomed. It’s a neat experience unlike any thing else in the world, however, so anyone who has the chance should visit. Hurry though, because in a few years nothing will be left.
Out Thursday morning for the short run across Pokomoke Sound and up to Crisfield, our first Maryland stop. Nice and smooth all the way. The only interesting thing was passing Courtney Thomas, which delivers mail to and from Tangier. (The poor Courtney Thomas thus has not one, but two existential threats to keep her up at night.)
Then on in to what looked like a dead end but opened into Somers Cove, a public marina surrounded by public housing.
The marina may not be in the best part of town, but it’s inside a huge guarded fence so it felt marginally safer than, say, the Joliet wall.
We don’t read Nicholas Sparks novels, but Dana did learn about world-famous Smith Island Twelve-Layer Cake from The Invisible Husband of Frick Island. Like Tangier, nearby Smith Island rapidly is being consumed by the Chesapeake Bay, which probably is why Smith Island Cakes now are baked at the not-coincidentally named Smith Island Baking Company in Crisfield.
Smith Island Bakery makes Maryland’s Official Dessert, perhaps because the gross-sounding Old Bay Cake Bites are so yummy.
We’re working our way up to St. Michaels, but needed another stop before hop-scotching through Solomons. Several rivers penetrate the Eastern Shore and lead to small towns, so we had our pick. We chose the Wicomoco over the Nanticoke. Because Max at ZMI said Salisbury was an awesome town to visit. Lesson number 1: don’t trust Max’s definition of awesome.
We did take one photo in Salisbury, so as to provide evidence in the murder trial if we’re killed in our sleep tonight.
Yup, that’s us, right there on the splintery fixed dock, a good portion of which will leave embedded in our dock lines if we do get out of here. We would’ve taken more photos but the super-cool Dockmaster went home and we didn’t want the sketchy dude—who already was on our side of the padlocked security fence—to see that we had a camera. Lesson number 2: when visiting a town recommended by Max, don’t wait until eating dinner in that town to research crime statistics.
In fairness though, the twenty or so Wicomico River miles before we reached Salisbury were dang scenic.
The Upper Ferry—which uses a surface line to go back and forth—created something of a hazard, but the ferry dude cheerfully agreed to lower the line for us when we hailed him on the VHF.
Dana took a picture of a sign on the river bank. Only with the benefit of hindsight did we understand what they were trying to tell us about continuing on to Salisbury.
Here’s an interesting note. Salisbury is in the heart of Delmarva, a clever contraction descriptive of the area’s location. We’re in Maryland, but only six miles from Delaware and twenty-five miles from Virginia. Come to think of it, we’re barely fifty helicopter miles from Cape May, but since Tumbleweed can’t fly, we’re a couple hundred miles up the Chesapeake Bay and down the Delaware River from getting there.
Here’s another interesting note, which required Dana to sneak up on the flybridge for one more photo. When an Osprey has time to build a nest big enough for Frank and Lillian Gilbreth’s entire family, you know the dude who owns the boat only pretends to be a fisherman.
We’d planned to stay here two nights, but hell no. Although we don’t love Solomons and the jellyfish, we do love going to sleep without wishing that Oscar, just once, was a youthful 120-pound German Shepherd with a mean streak, rather than a skittish little old deaf chihuahua mix who absolutely plans to stay in bed buried under covers if a bad guy attacks. So Solomons tomorrow it is, weather be dammed.
That was supposed to be the end of this post. But just then a storm smashed us with 40+ gusts. Whitecaps on the river. Driving rain. This all would be fine if we were tied up happily on a nice floating dock. Heck, it’d be okay if we still had our Misty Pearl fender boards. But instead, our lines are stretching, our horizontal fenders are bouncing to the sides of those splintery posts leaving unprotected rub rails, and our heroic efforts on the slippery dock in that driving rain improved our lot only very slightly. The good news, of course, is that not even the Salisbury Slasher will be out in this.