Northern Neck and Tangier Island


Elodie and I joined Eric for a long weekend on the Northern Neck.  He's been getting lots of great data on the Potomac dolphins this month, and we wanted to get in on the fun.

Eric was out on the water every day, so I got lots of great baby time all to myself.  We played games, went to the beach, had hours of lazy snuggles in the sea breeze, and learned about wildlife.  On this trip Elodie saw rabbits, herons, osprey, pelicans, dogs, spiders, dolphins, and jellyfish.
Saturday was a perfect lazy back and forth from the house to the beach.  It was cool enough to have all the windows open, but warm enough to live in a swimsuit and carry iced tea around.  Beach living will always be my favorite.
Elodie loved the beach.  She just sat there peacefully enjoying the waves and played in the sand a little (didn't even try to eat it!).  When I would pick her up she'd cry, which is the opposite of any other time.  It seemed like she was loving it.  Must be in her blood.
Sunday, Elodie and I went on an adventure to Tangier Island.  Her first boat ride - so exciting!  It was an hour and a half ride each way and she loved it.
Pulling up to the island, you immediately see evidence of two main industries: tourism and crabbing. Crab pots and processing shanties line the coast of the main waterway.  When you step off the boat, locals are there to greet you with with golf carts, food and drinks, bike rentals, and maps. 
Tangier is incredibly interesting as a unique cultural pocket in the middle of the East coast. Because the only way to access the town is by commercial boats or plane, it's remained very isolated over the last couple of centuries.  You can see that so much has remained unchanged in their way of life.  The most obvious difference is in their accent, which is hard to describe.  It maybe sounds very country with a little bit of Irish on top?  Fun to listen to, anyway.
There are very few cars. Most residents get around on golf carts or bikes. I think they told me there are only about 500 people living on the island, so there probably isn't much traffic. 
The Tangier people are also very religious.  When we arrived everyone was just about to get out of church. It seemed like the entire population was coming out and the town came alive.  I noticed everyone we talked to referencing God or their faith.  It's evident that faith is a major part of the communities' daily life.

Another thing that stuck around from centuries past is burying your family in your own yard.  Many yards we'd pass had a family lot in the front like this one.
 Overall, I found the island and the people to be so lovely.  They are open about their lives and shared so much with Elodie and me on our short trip.  We learned all about the changes happening in their crabbing industry - fishing regulations over the years have been hard on their businesses.  Soft shell crabbing has been passed down generation after generation. It's sounds like it's the main way to support your family on the island. We also learned about the significant erosion problems, as in they are losing 30 feet of shoreline per year!  It's so bad that people are being forced off of the island as land space diminishes. 

The Tangier residents were hands down some of the friendliest, nicest people I've ever met.  And the place is so small you know everyone by the time you leave.  As we left for the boat at the end of the day, people were yelling, "Bye, Elodie!"

Evenings at the beach house always have wine with a home cooked meal. It's the perfect place to wind down after a long day on the boat.  The house is pretty remote, so we can usually see lots of stars.  I tried to take a picture of the milky way, but between the half moon being out, trees blocking much of the milky way, and my lack of astrophotography skills, it didn't come out great. I'll consider it a good first try.
Of course the main reason we travel down there is to collect data.  Elodie and I went down to the dock to wish Anni and Eric a good day.
NMFS GA LOC No. 19403, Eric M. Patterson, 25-July-2015
There were tons of dolphins this trip and Eric saw this cute little guy above.  I love the babies! And the photo is captioned with their permit number to make sure people know you do in fact need a permit to approach wild dolphins this close.  :)

We stopped for coffee in the quaint, artsy town of Montross on the way home.  If you're driving around the Northern Neck I recommend it as a rest stop!

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