On Martha’s Vineyard, you can escape to an insular world of yachting traditions, summer amusements, celebrity spotting and quiet rural charm. Surrounded by Vineyard Sound to the northwest, Nantucket Sound to the east and the Atlantic to the south, the island is ringed with 18 public beaches, from placid sound-side sands to boisterous Atlantic surf.
Block Island lies just 12 miles off Rhode Island — tantalizingly close. Yet reaching this 3-by-7-mile island requires a passage that can be challenging, with currents, winds that are light and fluky or uncomfortably strong, and a high island landfall with a narrow channel into New Harbor (Great Salt Pond), not to mention fog and high-speed ferries.
A way of life that generations of watermen have followed still exists on Tangier Island, 12 miles off Virginia’s lower Eastern Shore. Some 420 people cluster on the 1.2-square-mile island’s three ridges, clinging to that self-sufficient way of life and battling erosion; rising waters; Chesapeake Bay pollution; depletion of oysters, crabs and waterfowl; stricter fisheries regulations; and the resultant emigration of their young people.
Ten miles off Chesapeake Bay’s lower Eastern Shore lies Smith Island, Md., where 240 residents of three villages eke out a living as their ancestors have for generations.
Land ho! It’s that exciting moment when a dark smudge appears on the horizon between the Florida Keys’ turquoise waters and azure sky. The smudge grows larger and more distinct, morphing into not a palm-fringed island or mangrove tangle but a massive brick fort nearly covering 16-acre Garden Key. It’s incongruous and awe-inspiring in this endless expanse of ocean.
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