A delightful Chesapeake Bay getaway for relaxing at a Bed & Breakfast, beaches, bicycles, and ingesting mass quantities of fresh-baked crabcakes.
November 27, 1995
I think many of us in the Northeast are looking for relatively
short trips that can be flown in three hours or less — and Tangier
Island neatly fits that description.
US Sprint's TV commercials in spring of '95 gave tons of free
publicity to Tangier Island, an isolated fishing community in
the middle of Chesapeake Bay. The commercial was right on the
money. The island natives still talk with the accent of their
forebears from Cornwall.
Over the years, we flew past the island many times while transiting
V1 between New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida but I must credit
our visit to Alton K. Marsh, who penned a delightful article in
the August 1994 issue of AOPA Pilot magazine. Mr. Marsh's
piece covered most of the Maryland eastern shore.
Late last winter, tired of shooting approaches to Sullivan County,
Orange County and other relatively nearby airports, my right-seater,
Roger Soderman and I set out on a practice IFR flight headed for
Tangier. Our arrival over the Cape Charles VOR was cannily timed
for lunch. It was mid-week and there was only one other plane
on the ramp.
Our walk from the airport into the village took all of four minutes.
Well, maybe five minutes.
Since we had come here to eat, we picked one of two restaurants
at the center of town for the obligatory crabcake sandwich. On
the way out, I (fortuitously as it turned out) grabbed a couple
of brochures describing two local Bed & Breakfast operations.
Also purchased - a tee-shirt for my wife, Sally.
Since she now had the tee-shirt and had never been to Tangier,
this was the perfect excuse (1) to make the trip and (2) to fly!
We called ahead to both B&B's. Yikes! It was the middle of
tourist season and the first one we phoned, Shirley's Bay View
Inn (804 891-2396) was full. No problem, though, because The Sunset
Inn (804 891-2535) had vacancies. Both B&B's charge $60 per
couple in season (children under 12 free) and provide air conditioning
and cable TV.
So, on a lovely day in early August we got a "cleared as
filed" from the tower at our home base of Caldwell, New Jersey,
and we were on our way. Tangier is less than two hours flying
time from CDW. The IFR routing we got was CDW..DIXIE.V1.CCV..TGI.
If you go VFR, you'll need both the New York and Washington sectionals.
Also keep in mind that TGI underlies R-4006 (3500 ft. to FL 250)
and is only a mile or so east of R-6609 (which is surface to FL
200.) You can contact Patuxent Approach at 127.95 to find out
if these are hot.
landed at Tangier Island airport, paid the $4.00 landing fee,
and phoned the B&B. The nice lady from the Sunset Inn came
to retrieve us in a golf cart! The "streets" on Tangier
Island are so narrow that the most common mode of transportation
is bicycle, followed by moped, followed by golf cart.
The trip was remarkably brief and when we pulled up at the Sunset
Inn...surprise! Our room was no more than 300 feet from the south
end of the runway! The Sunset Inn gave us a map showing a stylized
version of the island with colorful place names such as Tater
Bay, Big Gut Canal and Job's Cove.
We walked into town to see the lady who rents bicycles. "Two-dollars
per hour," she said, "or five dollars indefinitely."
We paid for "indefinitely" and pedaled off to adventure.
The first item on the agenda was to visit the five gift shops.
Only five? Hey, this is no sprawling metropolis. You can bike
all over the island in an hour or so!
We pedaled north to the yacht basin, then south through a number
of residential areas. At one cottage, we saw a yard filled
with literally hundreds of mallard ducks. They were all free to
fly away but chose not to...they knew a good deal when they found
one. As we watched, the ducks went bonkers, quacking, running
and fluttering toward a corner in the fence. We thought we had
spooked them, but halfway down the block, a middle aged chap walked
toward the cottage, chuckling. "Are they waiting for you,"
we asked. "Yep, I feed 'em," he said.
Tangier Island has five restaurants. For lunch that day, we chose
the one in the "downtown" area that Roger and I didn't
try on our previous visit. We ate...yep, crabcakes! After lunch,
we donned bathing suits and pedaled down a road that got narrower
and narrower until it turned into a sandy path that ended at the
beach. There was not another soul in sight. We had the place to
Tangier's economy is based on crabbing and oyster dredging. It
is further enriched, every morning, by dozens of cash-bearing
tourists who arrive via ferry from Reedyville, Virginia (19 miles
to the west) and Crisfield, Maryland, on the DelMarVa peninsula
(12 miles to the east). Most of the tourists return to the mainland
when the ferry boats depart at 4:30PM. If you listen carefully,
you can hear the sidewalks roll up. There is no movie house. There
is no bar. If staying at one of the B&B's, you can watch TV
or read magazines. You did come here to relax, didn't you?
For dinner, we pedaled to Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House B&B
(804 891-2331) and found, as Alton Marsh described it, a boarding-house-style
dining room. The last seating was 5pm and we sat at long tables
set with platters of ham, corn pudding, applesauce and hot rolls.
Alton Marsh was right, again. We got two crabcakes, max.
The dinner crowd included some folks who were staying at various
B&B's and two Maryland couples who had cruised to Tangier
aboard a sailboat that was berthed at the marina.
When dinner was over, it was only 6:30, the sun was still high
in the sky, but all the stores were closed... except for a couple
of vendors who offered ice cream! A perfect dessert!
We retired to the B&B, cranked up the air conditioning, and
watched the evening news. Just before dusk, we walked to the big
house next door and climbed to the second floor deck to watch
Next morning, we went next door to the big house for the Breakfast
part of the B&B contract and, after scrambled eggs and toast,
the lady with the golf cart gave us a ride back to the airport
ramp. If we absolutely had to, we could have just walked across
the back yard to the south end of the runway and hiked (probably
illegally) to the north end. On departure, we headed east toward
V1, while staying low enough to remain clear of the floor of R-4006.
All in all, a great trip. If you are interested in a visit to
Tangier, be advised that some facilities are seasonal and limit
their hours from mid-October to April. Call ahead, and happy flying!