A few minutes after pulling away from the only dock on the seven-mile long, uninhabited Parramore Island, our small craft runs aground nearly knocking us passengers out of the boat. A full moon has exaggerated the low tide and is threatening our return to the mainland. When we left this morning, the crossing from Wachapreague to Parramore at high tide was a twenty minute, full throttle endeavor. But now, low tide has us trickling along cautiously as the captain keeps a close eye on the depth-finder.
All aboard are whooped after spending the past seven hours completing a diabolical list of manual tasks. My boat mates and I are volunteers who spent the day helping convert an old Coast Guard repair garage into a rudimentary educational shelter for the Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve. Once complete, it will be used to showcase the tremendous value of Parramore Island and the 13 other pristine islands that front nearly the entire the coast of Virginia and form one of the longest stretches of uninhabited Atlantic coast. These barrier islands are like a football lineman, sheltering the mainland from storms. As important, they provide vital habitat for migrating water birds. They’re also strong reminders that some places in this world are best left untouched.
Perhaps the grounding and the slow ride back to the mainland have been a blessing in disguise. These perceived inconveniences helped prolong what will go down as one of the more memorable experiences in my life. The slow, quiet return pace through the channels and bays allowed time for the day to fully sink in. Parramore has long been on the extremely short list of places I’ve dreamt about visiting, and it did not disappoint in the least. Its isolation and pristine nature only enhanced this tremendous opportunity. And the slow float back enhanced it even more.
The hard work has been a bonding experience for this potpourri of volunteers – an army pilot, a lawyer’s wife, an insurance guy, a physicist, a marine scientist, and a soil conservationist. The common thread, of course, was our interest in thoughtfully preserving and appreciating the natural elements of this world. The diversity of our group, as well as this common thread (and a little alcohol), made for quite an enjoyable dinner together after our long return journey. We stayed the night courtesy of the Nature Conservancy in a beautifully restored and stocked home at Brownsville Farm – the Coast Reserve’s headquarters. Sharing travel stories with these folks, who appreciate naturally unique and beautiful places, was where the dinner chat flowed. And what better topic for this group who just visited a place that’s surely near the top of their list of favorite places?
Introvert that I am, throwing me into a house full of strangers, then boating us off to an uninhabited island and forcing us to make dinner together was a bit out of the norm. But like running aground, these perceived inconveniences turned into blessings enhancing the unique and memorable experience of being one of the chosen few to ever to set foot on Parramore Island.
See more of Virginia's Eastern Shore at this link: