Why I Favor Small Islands — in the Caribbean and other tropical places . . . .

— well, one reason, anyway . . . .

Guard Delivers Provisions to Ice-Bound Chesapeake Bay Island

February 20, 2015 1:11 PM

Fishing boats sit frozen in ice in the harbor of Tangier Island, Virginia as residents wait for a Coast Guard ice breaker to clear the harbor. (Photo by Glenn Beil/Getty Images)

UPDATED: Feb. 20, 2015 1:34 p.m.

TANGIER ISLAND, Va. (WNEW/AP) — The Virginia National Guard flew in food, medicine and mail to ice-bound Tangier Island, and the mayor said a Coast Guard cutter was on its way Friday to open a passage to this tiny fishing and tourism outpost in the middle of Chesapeake Bay.
Like many longtime islanders, Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge played down Tangier’s plight but said medicines were essential for those who could not get off the island. Tangier has no drugstore.
“But you know, we’re not starving out here,” he said in an interview. “This happens when you live in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.”
The guard’s 224th Aviation Regiment used a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Thursday to deliver milk, eggs, bread and prescription medicines to the 1.2-square-mile island of 460 people.

While the island has a grocery, many islanders hop on a ferry to Crisfield, Md. — 14 miles away — for larger purchases. Ice has made that route impassable. The only way off the island now is by air; the island has a small airport.
Like most of the Mid-Atlantic, Tangier has shivered through an unseasonable cold stretch, dipping to 9 degrees Friday. It received about 8 inches of snow this week.
Islanders who are accustomed to the isolation said many newcomers hadn’t planned ahead for the long winter months.
“We plan for it. We stock up our cabinets,” said Judith Eskridge, the mayor’s wife. “Some of the new people who come, they don’t know.
“It’s inconvenient, but it’s not life-threatening.”
Another longtime islander, the mayor’s nephew Tommy Eskridge, agreed. “We’re used to it. Like it’s not our first rodeo.”
The island’s frozen place in the bay has brought hardship. Some are unable to pay bills or visit relatives who are hospitalized on the mainland. Many on the island pilot or crew tugboats, often in two-week shifts. They’ve been stranded on the mainland.
Because of its isolation, many Tangier residents still retain the linguistic echoes of the island’s settlers, primarily from Cornwall along England’s southwest coast. John Smith, the intrepid Jamestown settler, is believed to be the first European to step foot on the island four centuries ago.
Many islanders fish or haul in the bay’s beloved blue crabs.
The island is a popular destination for tourists, who explore it by foot. Most islanders get around on golf carts.
Mayor Eskridge said the ice is “the worst it’s been in a long time” and has kept oystermen from Tangier Sound and a bountiful season. The season ends in two weeks.
“It puts the guys out of work,” he said. “We just can’t get the boats out to them.
“You look out there and it looks like the Arctic.”
In late January of 2003, the island was locked in ice and isolated for more than a week due to the extreme winter weather. Food stocks on the island had been dwindling, and following the deaths of several residents whose bodies were unable to be evacuated because the bay was sealed in ice, the U.S. Coast Guard intervened to break free a route to the island.
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(TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands and the Chesapeake Bay; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 52 years to the late Kincey Burdett Potter (see Kincey.org). President of the now-sunsetting Island Resources Foundation.
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