A Travellerspoint blog

Tangier Island

sunny 58 °F


When we came in to Cape Charles and, again, when we left we saw seven ships anchored, maybe a mile from shore. They were not in a designated anchorage area, but that's not a big deal. What was unusual was that all seven ships were the same, identical, like finding seven white Toyota Camry's next to each other in the Wal-Mart parking lot. All had the same hull configuration, all had the same superstructure, all were painted the same color scheme, all were empty, riding high above their Plimsoll lines. And, there is no apparent reason for them to be here since there's no bulk commerce near.

Everybody on a boat obsesses about weather: too much, too little, wrong kind. We have a nice aneroid barometer mounted in the cabin. I have always paid it heed but it never seemed very informative, always operating in a fairly tight range, rarely below 29.90 and infrequently above 30.30. This trip has put paid to that point of view, the instrument having moved from 29.40 to 30.50. Maybe this was because we were so far south that frontal weather systems were much attenuated by the time they reached us. Now, I reset the movable arrow every morning on rising and every evening when we go to bed.


I got up earlier than Carol and used the time to check the weather outlook. The outlook really wasn't that great; a frontal system was moving up the coast and the radar picture for the Chesapeake Bay was just covered up with colors, each pixel a bright harbinger that it was not going to be a great day for a sun tan. I heard echoes of the Clash (1982) singing, "Should I stay or Should I Go?" The case for staying was pretty good except that we had seen all of Cape Charles that we needed to see. By 0630 several working boats had exited the harbor, so, I figured, "Why not?" Why not, indeed? Maybe because about the time we were exiting the channel many of the working boats were returning to port. Undeterred, we continued north, along with the front noting that the clouds behind us we darker and lower than those in front of us.

We passed through the seven freighters, getting a much better look at them than we did entering port. They were, in fact, almost all the same, except .... many commercial lines have a color scheme, like racing silks. These colors and patterns are typically painted on the exhaust stacks of the ships. Each of these had something different on the stack.

We had to go about 45 nm, a good day's travel, so, despite the fact that there was enough wind to sail, speed mattered, so we motor sailed. We have generally been motoring at 2,600 RPM's, enough to push the boat at 5.0~5.5 knots without regard to wind and water. If we are going faster or slower than that range we can make reasonable inferences about the factors that might cause difference. The wind forecast was for 15~20 knots, and once we got away from the lee shore that proved to be the case and we made very good time, even with reefed sails. Then the wind got to be 20~25 knots and we made even better time, even with reefed sails. Our boat is fairly light at 17,000-lb's; so, when the wind got over 25 knots we were heeling about 25 degrees, even with reefed sails. Too much heel ... even the traveller could not compensate. So we took in more sail, the foresail to about the size of a bandanna, the mainsail to the size of some naughty thing from Victoria's Secret. And we still made more than 7.0 knots. I thought that this was way fun, flying across the water, spray from the bow forming its own deluge, the boat heeled over, tracking like the keel was in a slot. Carol, not so much. She loves to rock the carriage on the Ferris wheel, but that much wind is bothersome to her. There were some crab boats out but we never saw another pleasure craft and, certainly, no other sails.


Regardless, we arrived at Tangier Island much earlier than planned, found the marina, and narrowly avoided a docking disaster due to the wind. Found out that Tangier Island has no cell service, ergo, no internet service for us. A two day stay became an overnight stay. The island's raison d' etre seems to be crabbing. The channel is lined, both sides, with piers and crab shacks, built over the water, no access to land. Presumably, the land is too expensive, too scarce or both. We stayed at Park's Marina and met the eponymous man himself, a very active, spry and nice 82 years old, so he told us. Carol walked about the island; I stayed on the boat hoping to warm up. She didn't walk very far; I didn't get very warm.

James Michner wrote many books with name place titles, including Chesapeake, which followed his predictable formula of describing the development of an area from when to earth was a smoldering rock, 4.5 billion years ago, through the development of the wild life of an area and then the introduction of humans. He seemed to regard the early humans and then newly come settlers as the good guys; subsequent generations he treated as being attenuated in vigor and effete in nature. He probably would have approved of Tangier Island.

Michner's description of the Chesapeake was as a boiling cauldron of life, all connected to the water, including the islands of migratory birds that once covered the water. I recall having read an article about oysters in the bay. Oysters are siphoning creatures and that at one point the oyster population of the bay could siphon all the water once a week, cleaning it in the process; now it's down to once a year, which still seems remarkable. It is something to wish to have been able to have seen.

Tangier Island served a purpose, although not the one we had imagined. It was a Motel 6 on I-80 in the middle of Nebraska. Stayed there, the weather changed, and we then moved on.

Posted by sailziveli 09:18 Archived in USA Tagged boating

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comment with:

Comments left using a name and email address are moderated by the blog owner before showing.

Not published. Required
Leave this field empty

Characters remaining: