Is Execution Rocks lighthouse haunted? Definitely. By cormorants, gulls, peregrine falcons, seals (see arrow at :52) and us paddlers. Despite the unholy stench of bird guano, it’s one of our favorite haunts. Click for video—an impromptu “family reunion” on 1/16/17—courtesy of the mega-talented Luke (aka kayakhipster) and his new drone. 🙂 🙂
A final post reour paddling trip to Tangier Island, VA. So many photos, so much left to tell. The title of this post is Tangier-speak for “I mean what I say.” Here, Tangierman (?) Sonny Forbes gets the last word in this ode to his home 🙂 🙂
To the Stranger Who Walks Our Shores Step not lightly upon these shores nor cast lighthearted gazes upon our isle… take not a dim view of our dwellings nor laugh at our narrow roads…
Hilda Crockett’s Chesapeake House
…do not misunderstand our language nor make joke of our native tongue… do not mock our walk or look down upon our quaint ways…
…for upon these shores have walked men of God, made of fibre woven close for age…
…and inside these dwellings laughter and love have flowed to make mansions of our homes…
Everyone knows everyone here, so one invitation fits all
…our walk is that of pride and labor—bent somewhat from our toil but never from shame…
…our quaint ways may be misunderstood as slow but time is abundant here and we wish it not away…
…and fear not our streets, as narrow they are, for they are roads of welcome to strangers, highways to let all visitors come into our lives, and exit for those who misunderstand us, or mistrust us or wish not our love…
There’s only way to getyour handson a blue crab: Go out and catch one. (Or dozens, day after day—as our new friends on Tangier Island, VA, explained, when we paddled there in June.) Here’s a little photo essay from our visit to a “crab house” with local waterman, Denny C.
Besides churchgoing, harvesting blue crab shapes life here. On workdays, watermen are up at 3:30 a.m.
The “crab houses” that line the harbor are essentially “shedding pounds”where the molting of the crabs can be monitored (by hand, of course!).
Now we’re really feeling like silly city folk: Denny explains where soft-shell crab comes from (duh, it’s a hard shell crab that’s completely shed its hard shell—claws and all). But act fast! That rubber crab will have a new suit of armor in just a couple of hours.
US Capitol Building? A female. The Washington Monument: Male.
Soft crabs bring the highest prices. Crabbers quickly remove them from the water before a new shell starts to form and pack them in grass and ice for shipping to Crisfield and NYC’s Fulton Fish Market.
More on our trip to Tangier Island, Virginia, 6/17-19. In our previous post, we described Tangier as shrinking. Well, the better word is “sinking.” In an odd we-were-just-there coincidence, the New York Times on 7/10/16 published a fascinating article about Tangier’s predicament, which according to David Schulte, marine biologist with the US Army Corps of Engineers, is this: The island may have only 50 years left, and its residents are likely to become some of the first climate-change refugees in the United States.
Tossing our boats over the wall of the town dock…
…much to the amusement of the local watermen
Tangier has lost two thirds of its landmass since 1850. And it’s not alone: Over the past four centuries, more than 500 islands have disappeared from the [Chesapeake] bay, about 40 of them once inhabited. Most of Tangier Island, which consists of several long sandy ridges connected by footbridges and amounts to a little over a square mile, is approximately four or five feet above sea level.
Yet, there remains this beautiful fact: The low elevations and the quiet, bird-filled wetlands and tidal creeks produce a sense of living with the water, rather than beside it. (Click for video.)
Paddling what’s left of the Tangier region called “Uppards”
We’ve long had a “gnawing” (hunger) to take a “scud” (vacation) to tiny, shrinking Tangier Island, Virginia, smack in the middle of Chesapeake Bay. Inhabited by hardworking watermen since 1686, Tangier has remained fairly isolated—so much so that its 450 residents speak in a way that Queen Elizabeth I might recognize. (Click for video):
We just had to hear it for ourselves. (And taste the best Chesapeake crab cakes!) So when Rick Wiebush of Cross Currents Sea Kayaking posted the 6/17-6/19 trip, we were “happy as larks” (Tangier-speak for thrilled) to paddle along.
Alex boards the Crisfield, Maryland ferry to Tangier Island
In case you didn’t know, crabs are king
Alex ponders the ins and outs of crab pots
A fresh catch
Chesapeake crabs, next seen on your NYC dinner plate
Watching our step, we heaved our yaks up onto the top deck of the Crisfield ferry
The U.S. mail, en route to Tangier
Approaching Tangier by ferry
Tangier Island post office
Tangier is accessible only by boat or plane. And once you’re here, it’s a golf cart, bike or your own two feet.
This makes us laugh—just like everyone who lives here!
A typical mode of transportation around here.
Alex watches the traffic go by on a wild Saturday night
Walking to our lodgings at Hilda Crockett’s, we couldn’t help but notice the graves in the yards of families’ homes.This isn’t unusual at all, to folks familiar with the Eastern Shore of Virginia (and other parts of the Chesapeake region). Long before there were public cemeteries, the dead were buried in family plots located on a patch of high ground somewhere on the farm, usually not far from, or in view, of the main house. Tangier differs from the mainland only in being much smaller and having less land available—so this is just a “mini” version of a custom you’ll find around the South.
Stay tuned for more posts about Tangier Island. 🙂 🙂
We learned a lot of new things over the course of our 10-day, 120-mile paddle. (If you’re just tuning in, we invite you to visit our previous Keys posts.) Today’s eureka: #7: It’s possible to paddle in the shade.
The sun’s strong here.Luckily, mangrove forests are everywhere (but they’re tight quarters….just remember to take your paddle apart and maneuver with one half).
Short cut! Mangroves line more than 1,800 miles of shoreline within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The dense tangle of prop roots make the trees appear to be standing on stilts above the water. This tangle helps the trees handle the daily rise and fall of tides. Most mangroves get flooded at least twice per day.
The red mangrove produces a spear-shaped seed that is up to 10 inches long and will float until it implants into soil.
Seeking relief (ahem) on a black mangrove island
Or you can paddle in the shadows of the Long Key Viaduct (1907) and modern-day Long Key Bridge.
The Long Key Viaduct was part of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad; today, it’s a bike and pedestrian path/fishing pier
Long Key Bridge was built to replace the Long Key Viaduct (1907), which still stands parallel to the bridge.
Sometimes you just have to make your own shade. (2G3K Gear Recommendation: the versatile UV Buff)…
Jean, is that you?
Hen at SPF 1,000
…Or you can simply take advantage of passing clouds.
Continuing Ed on 10 Things We Learned while paddling from Key Largo to Key West. (Crib notes here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) 🙂 #5: The Keys are an ancient coral reef… #6: …and quirky as hell.
Beer-and-babes motorboat vs. kayaking nature nerds
Early in the trip, we took a short cut (literally) from oceanside to Florida Bay—the tides of which don’t correspond, by the way. (A geographical quirk!) Paddling through Adams Cut, a manmade residential canal, we glimpsed Key Largo in cross-section: its deep coral foundation.
Fossilized coral is rock hard. You need tent stakes as long as your forearm.
An iguana poses for Hen on his front porch
Dinosaur-like iguana, ancient coral-reef home foundation
We pitched our tents in a number of RV (“recreational vehicle”) campgrounds. Nice word for “trailer parks.” For us geeks, this was a whole new world of massive rolling castles and snowbirding nomads. Hmm, and you thought NYC was quirky…
On closer inspection, this tent was actually a barn for…(look beyond it, to the right…)
Lucy, the miniature horse. Now that’s pet-friendly!
Adams Cut: cross section of coral foundation
Fossil-fuel burners among the fossils
Lots of property for sale as the sea level rises
Our tents among the RVs
Monthly rent around $2500 includes electricity and water
Jack, Rick and Alex (headlamp) do the dishes at RV campground
It is wonderful to do your laundry after days on the “road”
Another day, another dozen miles paddling from Key Largo to West. Of the things we learned here, this one was immediately obvious. #4: The water is a gorgeous color. And so is everything else.
Photos above:Pelican’s eye view of Indian Key. Bill and Jack approach Long Key. Colorful character Hen. Storm clearing over Rock Harbor. Debra and unusual kayak storage. Arrival at Geiger Key to set up camp. Betsy takes a break near Indian Key. Angels over Curry Hammock State Park.
In February we cured our “cabin fever” by paddling from Key Largo to Key West (about 120 miles) with our intrepid friend, Henrietta (aka Hen), and guides Bill and Mary Burnham, authors of the excellentFlorida Keys Paddling Atlas. It was our first visit to the Keys—a 1700+ island archipelago that extends southwest and then west through the Florida Straits, between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing as how we kayak-camped for 10 days (itinerary below), we’ll share 10 things we learned along the way. 🙂
Hen scored the NDK Explorer.
#1: It’s one big kiddie pool. Turns out you don’t have to paddle 120 miles. You can wade. Welcome to America’s kiddie pool, courtesy of the long sheltering arc of the Great Florida Reef, the world’s third largest coral barrier reef system. In many cases, we paddled in water of 5 feet or less. A whole lotta “less.”
#2: But shallow water has its advantages. Because they depend on sunlight and clear water, seagrasses grow like wildflowers (which they are, sort of).
Florida has about 2,000,000 acres of completely submerged flowering grasses. They provide food and protection for fishes, crustaceans, shellfish, manatees and sea turtles, and they help maintain water clarity by trapping fine sediments and particles with their leaves. Unfortunately, seagrasses are disappearing at an alarming rate, due to dredge-and-fill projects, dirty water and motor-boat propellers (i.e., humans).
Hen helps to chart the trip, Day 1
Zoom in to see water “depths”
Choosing boats and routes; Pennekamp State Park
Hen is ready to launch
Early morning at Rock Harbor, low tide
Still colorful. Rock Harbor in the rain
Clockwise: Hen, Betsy, Bill, Jack, Debra, Rick, Mary’s arm
1/31/16: John Pennekamp State Park (Key Largo) to Rock Harbor (14 miles)
2/1/16: Rock Harbor to Islamorada (14 miles)
2/2/16: Islamorada to Long Key State Park (19 miles)
2/3/16: Long Key to Curry Hammock (12 miles)
2/4/16: Curry Hammock to Marathon (14 miles)
2/5/16: Marathon rest day (0 miles!)
2/6/16: Marathon to Bahia Honda State Park (12 miles)
2/7/16: Unplanned hide-from-the-hurricane day
2/8/16: Bahia Honda to Sugarloaf Key (17 miles)
2/9/16: Sugarloaf to Geiger Key (13.5 miles)
2/10/16: Geiger Key to Key West (12.5 miles) Next up: Florida Keys Top Ten: Part 2