This excerpt from Eastern Shore Road Trips #2: 26 More One-Day Adventures on Delmarva features a historical nugget that comes as a bonus section at the end of a chapter called “Wicomico Wanderings,” set on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. The trip starts at history-laden Pemberton Park outside of Salisbury, Md. and then leads you along backroads and into the Nanticoke River towns of Bivalve, Nanticoke, and Tyaskin before returning to Salisbury by way of two more history-laden towns, Quantico and Hebron.
Way Back Machine: A Tight Fit in Tyaskin
In his 1922 book, Delaware and the Eastern Shore, Edward Noble Vallandigham recounted the scenes and events of a trip around the Chesapeake aboard various steamboats.
The return voyage from Salisbury to Baltimore begins at noon, and on a day in late Spring or early Summer the run down the Wicomico is like a magnificent panorama, a glorified moving picture [for] the delighted eyes of the voyager. Over head is the sapphire sky, with cloud mountains on the horizon, sun-smitten to dazzling whiteness as if snow-capped. Unbelievably green marshes … stretch for miles along the vessel’s course. Now a farmstead shows with its lawn falling in natural terraces to the river. Now the staunch brick gable of an Eighteenth Century church peeps out from its oak grove.[On the Nanticoke] the scene changes [again as] … the boat nears a little wharf ministering to the convenience of a huddled hamlet. Tyaskin is a highly picturesque and difficult little harbor of the Nanticoke voyage, starred on the time-table with a foot-note that says, “Tide permitting.”
The captain, more than 40 years a seafarer, and, for a full generation familiar with the Nanticoke, knows the harbor as intimately as he knows the furnishing of his own bedroom at home. He knows that when the tide is favorable he can count on a few feet of clear water either way, bow or stern, and is assured of an inch or so between the bottom of his vessel and that of the harbor.
For him, getting in or out of Tyaskin is a mere matter of backing off when the rudder stirs up too much mud, and going forward when the keel trades on the bottom. So he tinkles his signal bell every other minute, backs and fills, gains a foot now, an inch then, knowing all the while that the little crowd ashore, for whom he provides the sole amusement of the community, is watching, some half hopeful perhaps that this time he will stick till the next tide, all however, ready to applaud his triumph should he escape misfortune, and now and then someone calling encouragement.
“You kin do’t, Cap’n Johnny! you kin do’t!”
Captain Johnny always does it, and it is a point of professional pride with him never except in case of dire necessity to take advantage of that phrase, “Tide permitting.”
–updated by Jim Duffy on July 6, 2019
–The photo up top here shows the waterfront at Tyaskin from back a century or so ago. At the time, seafood houses, a cannery, and a sawmill were all crowded around the wharf. Steamboats stopped coming in 1924. A small public park is on the site today.
—Eastern Shore Road Trips 2: 26 More One-Day Adventures on Delmarva is published by Secrets of the Eastern Shore/Whimbrel Creations LLC.