On an early June morning our guests boarded three boats to visit the cultured clam beds on the Seaside of the Eastern Shore. Captained by Tom Gallivan (Shooting Point Oysters), Tom Walker (J C Walker Brothers), and Pete Terry (H M Terry Co. Sewansacott Oysters), our flotilla departed Quinby dock winding through miles of native marshlands, channels, and open bays until we reached clam grounds and barrier islands seven miles from the mainland of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Our captains rafted our boats together and Tom Gallivan and Tom Walker jumped in the shallow water to explain how the beds were seeded, worked, and harvested. They showed us clams of different ages and grades from steamers to chowders. Two of our number, Andrea Reusing and Jessica Harris joined our hosts in the knee deep water to get a closer look at the clam grounds. Tom Walker added to the conversation demonstrating clamming techniques. Our tiny fleet then headed to an adjacent ground where crews were harvesting clams in chest deep water loading the clams onto workboats that would ferry them to shore for grading and shipping. The beds contain millions of planted clams and on a busy day as many as 100,000 are harvested.

Photo by Dylan Hubbard

After the clam tour we made our way to the northern end of Hog Island one of Virginia’s pristine barrier islands now protected by the Nature Conservancy. Home to roughly 160 residents and the village of Broadwater in the 1930s, the island is now unpopulated and a protected preserve for wildlife.  Our visit to the Barrier Islands Center the day before provided us with historical background, but the experience of the island itself was transcendent in its wildness and beauty. As we walked the shoreline, Charles Thain of the Eastville Inn erected a “field kitchen” and prepared a brunch. As Chef Charles made his preparations our guests walked along the beach savoring the experience of this wild and beautiful place.

Breakfast started with Edwards family cured ham (from Surry County across the bay) served on homemade sweet biscuits based on a Tangier Island recipe. Chef Charles, resplendent in his chef’s jacket, cooked omelets to order. The eggs for our omelets came from Sally and Kurt Lewin’s chickens near Capeville.  The crab meat was picked locally and provided by Chef Charles. James Elliot of the A & J Meat Market in Cheriton donated his sage sausage made using a family recipe. Even the coffee given by the Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Co. provided local flavor.

Photo by Dylan Hubbard

Breakfast concluded, we helped Chef Charles take down his open-air kitchen and pack up everything we brought. All we left behind were footprints–and the incoming tide was nibbling away that faint presence.

As our fleet headed landward, we marveled at how truly privileged we were to have had such an extraordinary moment in our lives.

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