Life on an Island?

How many of us sometimes dream about getting away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, not to mention the horror of politics, and enjoying a peaceful retirement on a deserted island–or maybe even just a nearly deserted one?

Dreaming that way seems safe enough because few people are in a position to fulfill that dream.

And those who can afford to can also afford to return to civilization if their dream getaway turns out not to be the Utopia they expected.


Smith Island isn’t a deserted island. Maryland’s last remaining populated island group in the Chesapeake Bay has fewer than three hundred residents, however. Most of them work on the water, although some make the forty-five minute commute by boat twice daily to work on the mainland. And of course there are folks who bake Smith Island cakes for exportation to markets in Crisfield and other places.

The island has a school, but kids above a certain age commute by boat to Crisfield to complete their secondary schooling.

Smith Island has a very attractive and informative museum. But the entry fee must be paid just to come in and purchase a sweatshirt. It’s worth it, though.

Smith Island’s only two restaurants close at 4:00 p.m. because that’s when tourists leave by ferry to return to the mainland. The seafood is wonderful, though. Fresh and tasty.

And the Smith Island cakes? Just as amazing as they’re rumored to be. Yum!

The islanders are big on church. The pretty little United Methodist church has a graveyard out back. The headstones go back a number of years, but fighting off the mosquitoes makes a lengthy examination too much of a nuisance to undertake.


Visitors aren’t allowed to bring cars. (The “ferries” are actually just regular boats big enough to carry a few passengers and occasionally some cargo.) Some of the residents have their own cars, but golf carts are popular there, too. So are bicycles.


The island is actually small enough to walk almost everywhere.

Birds in abundance are always visible. And so is the Chesapeake Bay itself. Since the Smith Island group is less than ten square miles in size, having an actual waterfront home is probably not considered overly special. And at time of flooding, maybe not even desirable.


Just like the island Devon in James Michener’s Chesapeake, Smith Island has been eroding for centuries. Efforts are being made to protect the island from being washed away entirely.


What do you think? Would Smith Island be a satisfactory substitute for a deserted island paradise?

In some ways it could be. With no crime, no law enforcement, and vehicles that don’t require license plates, life is safer than in what we think of as civilization. (I don’t mean to imply that Smith Island isn’t civilized–just that the resources are more limited.)

But wouldn’t we eventually take the simplicity and beauty of our surroundings for granted? Is it possible we might even grow tired of seafood and Smith Island cakes? And how would we feel about having to ferry to the mainland just to go to a mall (I’m not sure whether Crisfield even has a mall), a movie theater, or even a real grocery store?

And what about hurricanes? How could three hundred people be evacuated when the water gets that rough?


Don’t get me wrong. We thoroughly enjoyed our overnight visit to Smith Island in May. We stayed at a very adequate Bed and Breakfast, took a private boat ride around the Island, and enjoyed walking around looking at what there was to see. The residents were unfailingly nice.

Nonetheless, I don’t think Smith Island is where I’d want to live. And if a place like Smith Island won’t do, I guess I’ll have to quit dreaming of a deserted island, which would be even more limited.


Any comments? I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

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A B&B-Hoppin’ Vacation

Only since marrying Kathleen in 2003 have I learned what staying at a bed-and-breakfast is like. We’ve done it on several short getaways in the past, but this time we took a week-long vacation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Staying ONLY at B&Bs, we returned home this past Wednesday.

What a unique experience! No two places were alike.

Probably the nicest one was at Cape Charles, just a mile north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel coming from Virginia Beach, where we’d spent the day at the Virginia Aquarium and on a Dolphin spotting cruise. The rooms were spacious, and we had a wonderful private balcony, from which I enjoyed taking pictures of the sunset.


From there we went to Ocean City, where we stayed at the Inn on the Ocean, which is supposedly the only B&B in Ocean City. What made it so special was it’s right on the boardwalk. Despite Kathleen’s arthritic knee, walking some on the boardwalk wasn’t too much of a problem.

One high point of our time in OC was meeting a former English student of mine–she “just happened” to be coming to OC for the week on one of our days there–for an evening meal. Another high point was a visit to Assateague Island, where we were able to see some of the wild horses.


Our room in OC was smaller than at Cape Charles, but the breakfasts were great, and so was sitting on the front porch to eat.

After two days in Ocean City–it has a much better boardwalk than Virginia Beach–we spent two days in Cambridge. Our B&B there, the Albanus Phillips Inn, has quite a history–it’s a restored mansion, and we actually had a suite for the price of a room. Our host sat at the breakfast table with us and told us tale after fascinating tale about the house and about Albanus Phillips himself.


Because I used to live in Cambridge, a visit to my old church enabled us to see some of the folks I hadn’t seen in more than forty years. It was the pastor’s last day at the church–he’s retiring–and we were blessed by seeing him and his wife, both of whom had been students of mine while I was still teaching school.

We spent much of Sunday afternoon visiting two of the best friends I’ve ever had and then a lengthy supper with two others. We had to go to Walmart to say hi to one old friend who had to work during the time we didn’t already have plans for.


On Monday we drove to Crisfield to take a forty-five minute ferry to Smith Island; although the islanders have vehicles, visitors aren’t allowed to.


Since the Island’s two restaurants close at 4:00 when the last ferry to the mainland leaves, our B&B hostess was nice enough (for a reasonable extra cost) to fix us the most wonderful crab cake dinner that evening and provide a slice of famous Smith Island cake, Maryland’s state dessert; it has from eight to ten VERY thin layers. Interestingly, she doesn’t live in the B&B. Since we were the only guests that night, we had the house to ourselves.


The house faces the water. Smith Island is VERY small. I don’t know how many people live there, but I suspect the number is in the lower hundreds. Church–the island has only a Methodist church–plays a big part in the lives of the islanders. Most of the islanders are water-men, although some people commute (by ferry, of course) to the mainland to work. Incidentally, the streets are few and quite narrow, and cars don’t have license plates. Crime is non-existent among these folks, all of whom probably know one another.

We enjoyed a private boat ride around the island (Smith Island is actually made up of several tiny islands, each with a town of its own; we stayed at Ewell, the largest town.)


On Tuesday we ferried back to the mainland, returned to Cape Charles, and spent another night at the same B&B we’d stayed at on our first night. Not counting the suite in Cambridge, the rooms there were unquestionably the biggest and most comfortable.

It’s impossible to describe a week’s vacation–especially one that was one of our best vacations yet–in a few hundred words or to show you more than a few of the dozens of pictures I took.

If you’ve never stayed in a B&B, you might want to consider trying it sometime. 

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

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