Tag: blue crab

Exploring Virginia: A Day Trip to Tangier Island

Tangier Island has always been a place of intrigue in my mind – a mythical island of less than 500 people, disconnected from daily life. When we were young, my sister took an overnight boat trip there with family friends. A hurricane led to a near stranding and peaked my interest in visiting. In medical school, we learned of Tangier Disease, a genetic disorder causing reduced levels of HDL (good cholesterol), named after the island’s inhabitants who have a rather shallow genetic pool.



So when Amir suggested a day trip, I Googled “tangier ferry” and discovered Tangier Rappahannock Cruises, a 2 hour ferry service that leaves from the coastal fishing town of Reedville, VA. I recommend selecting the same-day return trip, and skipping the suggested lunch at the Chesapeake House (more on that in a bit).   Total cost round-trip for the two of us was just $57.24 including all taxes and fees. While you can just show up at the dock and buy tickets the same day, I recommend booking online to save yourself time and ensure your reservation.

We sat on the bow to get the best vantage point of blue skies and glassy seas. Osprey, fishing boats and crumbling barns float by, demanding the attention of your camera lens. I, as usual, captured them through the lens of my iPhone, Amir through his Canon DSLR.


Tangier soon turned from a distant mirage to a beautiful green world just ahead. The skyline was low, consisting mostly of simple two-story houses with a rare deviation in height for a church steeple and a water tower. As we entered the man-made channel lined with little white houses and docks, our ship’s captain revealed that Tangier is the world’s source for soft shell crabs. The crabbers live in these tiny white shacks – shacks that are filled with blue crabs, checked diligently on the hour in anticipation of the golden moment when the crab molts its shell. The crab is then scooped up and placed on ice or into a freezer and sold to restaurants for a feast later that day. It’s a practice as unique as the island itself.


We stepped off the boat and onto the dock, the end of which was lined with locals in golf carts offering 15 minute tours of the island, and friendly women with sun-aged skin offering coupons for the best lunch spots (there are only 7). We opted to skip the carts and create our own walking tour.


Instantly we were struck by the strange collision of worlds. Tangier is part what you would expect – fishermen, boats, flip flops and simple life at a slow pace – everything I love about Chesapeake Bay living. But it’s also part Cuba, part 3rd world country. For an isolated island, bringing goods in is expensive, so you see signs of old everywhere you turn. 1970s motorbikes, rusted chain link fences, refrigerators from 3 generations past. If you want new and shiny, this is not the place for you.

And while old often equates with charm, there’s something a bit off in Tangier. Like bringing things to the island, disposing of them is also a costly task. So, garbage is everywhere – broken down golf carts, bottomless boats, and 20 year old Pepsi cans littering the land and the water. It makes you cringe. It doesn’t fit. A proud people so dependent upon nature for their existence, so careless in protecting it.


For a half second my mind contemplated the missed opportunity – “What if they just picked up the trash?” “What if they had some eco-friendly activities?” I imaged the potential for increased tourism, and the subsequent revenue that could benefit this island and its people. And then I wondered, maybe this is deliberate.


We decided to try Fisherman’s Corner for lunch. We entered the brightly painted, simple square building to find a bustling room tightly packed with tables of both tourists and locals. The menu was typical Chesapeake Bay fare – she crab soup, crab dip, fried shrimp, crab cakes and soft shell crabs. Clearly we had to try the soft shells. The food was simple, home-cooked and a tad pricy, but delicious. My soft shell crab was sandwiched between two slices of white Wonder bread. While I was initially skeptical of my minimalist bun, when topped with the zesty tartar sauce, the flavors combined perfectly. We skipped dessert since we’d already cheated and devoured hand-dipped ice cream cones on our earlier walk.

Soft shell crab sandwich at Fisherman’s Corner | Tangier, VA
We continued our ambulatory tour of the island, scoping out the picturesque little houses and the oddly placed graveyards in each front yard. Tangier is only 4 feet above sea level and losing 10-15 feet of land mass per year, so space is limited. A brief scan of graves reveals repeating names – Crockett, Pruett, Pruett, Crockett, Crockett. I begin to better understand the origins of Tangier Disease.

There are two churches, one fire station, one police officer and one school. On an island with 450 people, you make do. The sign outside the fire station explains that until very recently, every household was provided with a single leather bucket. When a fire broke out, the entire town would arrive and form a bucket brigade. I wondered what hurricane preparations took place today.

In just 3 short hours, we’d experienced 90% of what Tangier has to offer. We heard a dialect I can only describe best as Old English garble. We marveled at the eccentric locals like bird watchers spotting a never-before-seen species. Tangier is a dichotomy of beautiful and ugly, but special none-the-less.


The History of the Krebs Crab Bake

In the Spring of 1998, I was a 2nd Year at UVA, living in the Tri-Sigma sorority house with lots of great friends.  In the Spring, UVA always gave you the Monday after Easter off, but for my out-of-state friends, a 3 day weekend wasn’t quite long enough to make a trip back home to New England.  As the weather was nice, and Spring just showing itself, my roommates asked if we could go to Virginia Beach for the weekend to celebrate the great weather.  I warned them it wouldn’t be swimming weather, but that we could certainly partake in some very VB things like eating crabs and drinking Corona’s on a patio on a nice day.  They wanted in, and thus, the Krebs Crab Bake was born.

Since that first bake, things have changed tremendously, but some things have stayed the same.  The zen of the party has always been to show up, enjoy the weather, welcome in Spring with some great seafood, ice cold bottled beer, and spend time with friends.  Over the years, I’ve been through 3 jobs, 4 boyfriends and now 1 husband, medical school, and a move to Richmond.  Yet, the Crab Bake remains the one day of the year when all those random people from my life who are strangers to each other, come together and make new friends.  And there’s my mom, the anchor of it all.  In honor of the upcoming 18th Annual Krebs Crab Bake coming up on May 9, I decided to recap the little known history of this event.  I hope you will submit some of your favorite memories and milestones for me to add to this list.


1st Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 11, 1998

Attendees: Kaye Krebs, Stephanie Krebs, Karen (Lee) Sippel, Sarah (Hawkins) Vrabel

Kaye bought all us girls Easter Baskets and hid them around the house for us to find.  Yes, we were 19, but it was awesome.  At the first Bake we did have blue crabs, but we hadn’t yet discovered the wonders of Frogmore Stew.

Sarah, Karen & Steph
Sarah, Karen & Steph

2nd Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 3, 1999

  • Attendees: Kaye Krebs, Stephanie Krebs, Karen (Lee) Sippel, Cara Reske
  • Easter baskets
  • Still girls-only
  • Crabs and beer (still no frogmore stew yet)


3rd Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 22, 2000

  • Boys were finally invited

4th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 14, 2001 

5th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – March 30, 2002

The Crab Bake by tradition had always been on the Saturday before Easter, because that was the UVA 3-day weekend.  So, for Year 5, in keeping with tradition, we held the Bake on March 30 as Easter was early that season, but the next day.  Little did we know, but it’s illegal to fish for blue crab in VA prior to April 1 each year, so there were no blue crabs available ANYWHERE.  Our solution (and not a cheap one), Alaskan King Crab Legs!  Memorable, but not financially sustainable.  From this point forward, the Crab Bake would always be after April 1, even if Easter fell in March.

6th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – 2003

I had just started working at Trader Publishing Company in February 2003.  Little did I know, that would be a huge turning point in my life.  A career I didn’t even know I would love would blossom, and I made some of the best friends of my life.  Crab Bake regulars made their mark, and cemented their lifetime invites.

7th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – 2004

8th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 9, 20053272_72962725868_7188340_n

This was the one and only year we tried to have the bake without Kaye.  She was off in Gatlinburg, TN at the ACBL Regional Bridge Tournament.  Cara Reske, Steph (Krup) Repole & Dave Lowery and I thought, “how hard can this be?” and decided to have the Bake without Kaye.  Let’s just say there’s a reason we’ve never had one since where Kaye wasn’t there.  3272_72962700868_8378166_n

I sent Steph and Cara out to Bubba’s to pick up the fresh crabs.  I guess I wasn’t explicit enough in my instructions, because when they got back to the house, I reached into the bag and almost lost a finger.  I had failed to mentioned they should ask for the crabs to be cooked there with Old Bay.  They brought home 4 dozen live crabs that I didn’t have the heart to kill myself.  They hopped back in my VW Cabrio, went back to Bubbas, had the crabs cooked, and then returned to Thoroughgood.  Ooops.

9th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – 2006

By 2006, I had made A LOT of new friends at Trader, and the Crab Bake attendance had expanded accordingly.  In her wisdom, my mom went searching for a better way to feed 40+ people crabs at roughly the same time.  Behold:  Frogmore Stew.  A new tradition was born.

10th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – 2007

To celebrate a decade of Crab Bakes, Allen & Suzanna McGrath gave my mom a commemorative rock with an inscription honoring 10 long years of good food, cold beer and friends.  Unfortunately, the weather was 38 degrees, but we didn’t let that stop us.  We broke out the fire pits to keep warm, and created another memorable event.  I think there may have even been snowflakes.  Year 10 was also the 1st year for Cornhole Boards.


11th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 12, 2008

Zoe Bertolacci officially became the first loyal baby/kid attendee.  By Design – Kevin Strange, Muj, Zach and Nick’s band played for the first time.  Kaye & Gary were hosting Obama campaigners because it was election season. They joined the fray late night.


12th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – 2009

13th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 11, 2010

For Lucky #13, Bartender Steve from Tautog’s and his lovely girlfriend Vanessa joined the crowd.  Steve tried to rival Kevin Freet for best bloody mary.  The Trader crew remained loyal attendees, even though I had stopped working there back in 2007.


14th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 23, 2011

In the Fall of 2010, I started medical school at EVMS, and with that came a whole new crop of friends.  14 was also the first year with it’s own logo designed by Nick Valese.  We had about 60 koozies made, which were a huge hit!

Design credit: Nick Valese


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15th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 14, 2012

Year 15 was the year Jackie started bringing her delicious and adorable cookies for all to enjoy!  Back by popular demand, we ordered koozies again.

Design credit: Nick Valese

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16th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 13, 2013

Year 16 we had a lot more EMS people in attendance.  Jackie was VERY pregnant with Ethan and Jacob.  It was also the first year Amir and I were officially together.  The financial strain of Medical School was catching up, so we opted to forego koozies this year.


17th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – April 19, 2014

The year of Giant Jenga and snow crab legs – AGAIN!  Apparently all the cold weather and storms stirred up the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, creating an uninhabitable environment for the crabs to breed for the season.  We called around to 12 different crab distributors with no luck.  There were no blue crabs to be had across the East Coast from MD to NC.


Chad and Delia Kloefkorn


Dwayne, Stephanie & Amir

18th Annual Krebs Crab Bake – May 9, 2015

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Design Credit: Nick Valese

ADDENDUM: 04/10/2016

19th Annual Krebs/Louka Crab Bake – May 7, 2016

Design credit: Nick Valese

This year’s crab bake was complicated by the sale of the Thoroughgood house.  Fortunately, the timing allowed for the party to take place as planned on May 7.  For a while, everything was up in the air, but with a new house purchased and the Thoroughgood House sold in only 3 days, the 19th is on!


Still wondering:

Who knows the date of the one and only “1/2 Way to the Crab Bake Party” we had back in 2007/2008/2009 time frame?