Every year, for six years now, my fabulous, amazing, brilliant sister* and I take my girls on a trip, just the four of us. This year my oldest daughter requested an ocean theme for our trip. We spent a couple of days in Norfolk, VA, taking a boat tour of the Naval base and exploring the Nauticus Museum. We spent one day hiking around Assateague Island and taking an astounding boat tour from Chincoteague Island. The boat tour was the major highlight.
Captain Barry runs boat tours from the island and he has a variety of options. He was booked pretty full but had a space for us one evening from 6:30-8:30. He offered to tailor the tour to my daughters rather than his traditional sunset tour.
First of all, he knows just about everything about the island. More importantly, however, he is fantastic with kids. The first big thing we did was to motor over to a shoal (I have no idea if that is the best term but I don't have a better one). It was near high tide so the shoal was quite small and completely covered with shells. He gave each girl a ziploc bag and sent them off to collect shells. Then he pulled up a trap he keeps there, filled up a shallow bucket with water, and dumped a bunch of tiny fish into it. The girls were invited to touch the fish and then to scoop them up in their hands, hold them over the edge of the boat, and say, "Jump, jump, jump!" The fish would wiggle or jump right out of their hands and back into the water. They loved it!
We made a quick stop in the grasses nearby. Captain Barry plucked up grasses and had the girls pass them on to the adults on the boat. He showed us the salt on the grasses and encouraged us to taste it. Then he pulled off some shells and told us about the snails.
Next we headed over to a new island. It's only been there for about four years. At high tide it wasn't too big but it was wonderful. We stood on one small stretch and had the waves breaking over our legs, from the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. Amazing. My girls had a blast running around in the waves, splashing and laughing.
The last major stop was a crab trap Captain Barry keeps. He let my oldest daughter hook the trap and pull it in. He dumped the four crabs into the bucket and let the girls check them out. When they had had enough he let them pick up the bucket and dump them back into the water.
I wrote this for two reasons.
1. To share the news about Captain Barry. If you happen to be near Chincoteague make some time for one of his tours, even if you don't have kids with you. I fully intend to go back next summer and take a half day tour with him.
2. This experience was so wonderful for my daughters. I wish my students had these sorts of experiences. We can take them on field trips, and we do, but that is so limited. My girls learned more from this two hours than they could in two weeks of school. That's not a knock against their teachers by any stretch, simply a limitation on what is possible in school.
*She's the only sister (and sibling) I've got so I can wax as enthusiastic as I want. Plus, she takes several days each year to take a special trip with me and my girls. How many siblings would do that?