Have you ever wanted to spend a few days Off The Grid? Would you call a fast channel crossing a cruise? We did both! Aboard the Capt. Jason II we crossed the Tangier Sound in the Chesapeake Bay to Smith Island where we had a few days Off The Grid, well not fully, but with very limited cell phone and no Internet we came close. Smith Island is served by boats from Crisfield, at the southern most tip of the Eastern Shore in Maryland. Another island nearby
is Tangier Island, about 10 miles south of Smith Island in Virginia.
To and From the Islands
We arrived in Crisfield about 10:30.and found the fleet of three boats; Island Bell, Capt. Jason and Capt. Jason II, waiting at the town pier. Mail and UPS trucks were transferring their loads to the boats. This included groceries.This is how everything gets out there. Only then were our bags and kayaks loaded. Finally the passengers boarded after everything else was stowed on board.
As time drew close to noon, more passengers arrived and at 12:30 all the boats cast off and headed to Smith and Tangier Islands The channel out of Crisfield isn’t wide, but we all made it out without incident. Tangier Sound is only about 5 miles across, but with a 12 kt wind blowing the seas were not calm. On board our boat, The Capt Jason II, were about a dozen other passengers headed to Smith Island, The trip took across Tangier Sound us past buoys and channel markers and an abandoned lighthouse, Janes Island Light.And a few other sizable markers. This one was off Grand Point, but only labeled on the chart as “2“. Most of the channel markers topped with Osprey nests with juveniles calling for food.
Our boat’s destination was Tylerton isolated on its own piece of land, but we made a stop at Ewell, the largest town to drop off some packages and some passengers, including two bicyclists that planned to return on the next boat. . The rest of us continued on to Tylerton.
As the Capt. Jason II arrived at the town pier, Rob and Linda Kellogg, the owners of The Inn of Silent Music were waiting for us. They were good hosts and soon became good friends. After we retrieved our bags and kayaks from the ferry Rob introduced us to the town, pointing out the highlights on the map I call the welcome center, really just painted on the side of a garage. Tylerton is small, only 52 permanent residents. After walking only a few hundred yards we arrived at the Inn where we met the third member of our host family, Jasmine, a friendly Black Lab.
After we finish breakfast the first morning on the island we set out to paddle to Ewell. That paddle should have been about two hours, but a stiff breeze was against us, and I led us up the wrong creek so after what seemed like hours we ended in GreatPond not at all where we wanted to be. What else to do but to turn around and head back. The return journey wasn’t much better, wind at your back doesn’t always help. After we cleaned up and found lunch at the market we explored the town, about half a mile long and 2 or 3 “blocks” wide. It doesn’t take long. So we made a few round trips, both on foot as well as by bicycle. That’s when I used the camera the most.
I stopped by the town pier to ask “Captian Larry” where I went wrong, he pointed out where we should have paddled. I was ready for the next morning.
After another good dinner, a good nights rest, and a good breakfast we were more than ready to conquer a short expedition to Ewell. This time I checked again with a local fisherman as we paddled past to make the decisive turn, we were right on course. This time the wind was kinder to us and crossing Tyler Ditch went smoothly. As we paddled we kept an eye on a Pelican not far off. At one point it folded its wings, dived into the water and came up with a fish in its beak. As we spotted the “green buoy” and made a slight right turn we spotted the Red Watertrail signs we missed the day before. We were now in Indian creek, then Levering Creek headed towards Ewell. We were paddling in quiet water surrounded by marsh grasses, and a variety of gulls, and Osprey. Everywhere we saw juvenile. osprey they were squawking for food. As we passed a nest one of the parents glided over us to land and feed its young.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Tylerton
Staying at the Inn of Silent Music has many benefits. The first thing we saw as we entered was of course Jasmine, a loving Black Lab. The second benefit was beautifully appointed rooms. And of course there was the food.
Breakfast fare included Linda’s own Granola, Home-made yogurt, Rob’s Fruit Bowl, Baked Eggs with Asiago and Ham and Pancakes with Ricotta. Dinner entrees included Chicken stuffed with Crab Imperial, and Rock Fish (Striped Bass) with an Almond crust. Unless the weather is bad all meals are served on the screened porch.The weather when we were there was perfect. It’s a friendly experience, everyone walking on Tyler Road smiles and waves a greeting as they pass. After dinner all the guests enjoyed desert and the view across Tyler Creek. Facing west we enjoyed colorful sunsets. One evening a ship, probably a cruise ship was making its way north on the Chesapeake bay. The lights on that ship were visible for at least a quarter of an hour.
The Inn doesn’t provide lunches, but then there’s the Drum Point Market, a short walk from the Inn, and in the middle of town.
Besides being the only “grocery store”, they make sandwiches and other lunch fare. I’d paraphrase a line from Garrison Keelor’s Lake Wobegone. If the Drum Point Market doesn’t have it, you don’t need it. So one afternoon we ate at the market, homemade subs that beat anything I’ve had from Subway®.
Lunch in Ewell
The day we successfully paddled up Indian Creek lunch was in Ewell. When we arrived in Ewell took what seemed like forever to reach the far side of town. Paddling was slow, and it took a while to reach a ramp where we could land. As we turned into the basin we were caught by a strong current against us, that’s why!
Once on dry land again we were able to stretch our legs, sitting in a kayak isn’t the most comfortable way to spend a couple of hours. About half a block walk took us to Bayside Inn Restaurant for a good Crab Cake lunch. These Crab Cakes are on my list of “the best I’ve eaten”
About Smith Island
Besides the few tourists Smith Island gets, crabbing, oystering in the winter and fishing there is hardly any industry. That is except for “Smith Island Cake”, Maryland’s official desert.
Even if you don’t like cake, Smith Island Cake try it at least once in a lifetime. This cake is typically 8, or more, layers. Not your typical layer about an inch high, these layers are about a quarter of an inch, with layers of icing, or fruit between. The piece of cake I ate for desert at the Inn had a slice of baked peach in it.
Some random photos in Tylerton and around Smith Island
Pelican outside the Inn, not as exciting as the pelican we watched diving into to e Tyler Creek just in front of us while paddling.