Monday, January 31, 2011


These are the jetties at Tin Can Alley on Gwynn's Island.

Mathews County thankfully has several designated spots for public access to the beach and bay, and Tin Can Alley is one of them.

Tin Can Alley is not to be confused with Tin Pan Alley, although Chesapeake Bay Woman regularly does so, even though she realizes one refers to musicians and songwriters in New York and the other refers to a postage-stamp size beach on a sleepy little island in the Chesapeake Bay, worlds apart. Still, CBW is very easily confused and amuses her children by talking about their Xbox 350 (instead of 360) or XCube (instead of Game Cube or Xbox) or asking if they're watching Josh and Drake or Jake and Josh (a television show otherwise known to the rest of the teenaged world as Drake and Josh), among just a few examples.


These jetties have been here for decades, well before those summers in the 1970s when my paternal grandmother took us here to go swimming. We liked to walk along the top like a balance beam and then jump off into the stinging-nettle-laden waters only to quickly scurry onto the scorching hot sand, where we awaited imminent death from the blazing sun that sucked the life out of our skin which had been marinating in very dense salt water. And stinging nettles.

OK, it wasn't quite that bad.  But I can assure you swimming here is not nearly as relaxing as it ought to be based on how tranquil and serene it appears.

These jetties are (or used to be) found everywhere around the island.  Their primary purpose is to prevent erosion.  Based on how long these have been here, I'd say they've done an admirable job. This side of the island, facing east, is on the receiving end of some of our more ruthless storms.

The on-line dictionary says jetties are "a structure extended into a sea, lake or river to influence the current or tide or to protect a harbor."

Looks like some of these jetties need some protection or reinforcement themselves.

Click here for a link to another Chesapeake Bay Family story I wrote in 2008 about Tin Pan Can Alley. But only if you're bored.

Otherwise, have a great day and a great week.


Kay L. Davies said...

Yes, those jetties could use a bit of a hand, it appears. But what a nice place to swim, minus the stinging nettles.
I'm working on it. When we go to Europe in March and April, our dog-sitters are going to take our dog to Saskatchewan. A shake-down cruise, so to speak. If she enjoys that, we will at least have a clue. (No ocean in Saskatchewan, of course, but there might be geese for her to hone her Gustav-bashing skills.)
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Anonymous said...

The Key to a good jettie's is the part you don't see. If it is installed correctly it will cover with sand in a matter of months. There were several ways to put one in, most were pumped in with a hand pump (not the strongest). Others were driven in with different equipment these were much stronger!Today most people use rip rap (stone) were permitted. Creosote was the wood of choice back then, Today it is the Asbestos of the Bay!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and tin can alley was the love shack of the 70's Wow how times have changed can you imagine tell your girl friend In this day and time (hey you want'a go parking at tin can alley!)
1. you would get bitched slapped for suggesting to carry her to a place called tin can alley. She would think you were carrying Her to a dump or something .
2. they may not know what parking is. (you no submarine races) another slap!
3. The local constable's would have you in handcuff's within 30 minutes
4. The 70's are gone! I miss the 70's.MM

Daryl said...

Oh I thought this was a post about young Jet fans ...

Great snaps, CWB ...

deborah said...

I always wondered what the jetties were used for..these rustic ones make great photos! There are a couple made from old cross ties along the Ohio River.

Have a great day! Keeping my fingers crossed that the storm passes us by

MM the 70's were very good times:)

Nates Pics said...

Great shots CBW! To me, Gwynn's Island and jetties are synonomous and I spent many a childhood hour with a crab net in hand walking up and down the jetties scooping up crabs (back when there were crabs to be had). And then many a regrettable hour picking splinters out of the bottom of my feet until I got my tough "summer feet." Also, I remember walking on top of that almost unbroken sea wall along the western side of the island where our place is. Seemed like it stretched on almost to the Islander. Good ol days!

Chip "Rocket Man" Allen said...

The bay front beaches I grew up on in Virginia Beach could sure use a few of those jetties. Developers have built as close to the high tide mark as they could get away with, primarily through the use of bulkheads which stop the dune action from replenishing sand lost during winter storms. The result is the beaches erode right up to the bulkhead. Occasionally Mother Nature shows her muscle and washes those bulkheads out to sea leaving the wide expanses of sand of my childhood....until the bulkheads are rebuilt!

Diane said...

I love a good jetty. Out here ours are made of rocks and covered with barnacles. Barnacles must be the west coast equivalent of stinging nettles. I have the scars to prove it!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Kay-I'll pay the dog sitter extra to hone those skills. Just don't tell CB Mother...

MM-Everything around here was creosote, that's for sure. Speaking of all the submarine races, we should start a list of all the various viewing sites in the tri-county area. I think it would be quite a lengthy list.

Daryl - Thanks. I could talk more about these jetties than football though.

Deborah-Good luck with the storm but I know they're calling for ice far north and west of here.

Nate-They are indeed synonymous, and I never realized how unique these (the Gwynn's Island style) were until I did a search of images. As MM says above I'm sure it has to do with the creosote.

Chip-That's really a shame about the development. The one saving grace we have here is we have a few public/county beaches where development is prohibited. Without those there would not be *one inch* of undeveloped waterfront property.

Diane-We have the barnacles too, though where you were swimming during Blog Fest there were very few. (There were also surprisingly few nettles then too.)

Well, it's only Monday but it feels like I've been working an entire week instead of only one day.

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to those who comment. I truly appreciate you stopping by and enjoy reading your words, especially after a long, arduous Monday.

Country Girl said...

Well then, those jetties are doing a darn good job. Do you have some kind of special immunity against the stinging nettles?

Sherii said...

Thanks for the water pics!