Dan Davis goes out on the waters around Chincoteague Island almost every day, to the point that if something even small changes, it sticks out. But last Friday morning, something that usually stuck out pretty high in the water was only sticking out a little.
“As we were coming around the bottom end of the island … I noticed this area where the cabin was, something didn’t look quite right,” Davis said. “At first, I thought maybe it was a barge up next to it. But as we got closer up, we saw it was indeed actually off its pilings and laying in the water there.”
The cabin had been built on a patch of land just off the southern tip of Chincoteague decades ago. When he started on the water, Davis said, there was about 100 yards of sand between the pilings it sat on and what’s known as the canal that leads out to the inlet and eventually the ocean.
In recent years, all of that land was washed over, and the cabin, which wasn’t occupied, sat on top of the water.
“The location of it, a lot of people would see it,” Davis said. “Anybody going in and out of our inlet would ultimately pass by that cabin.”
Now, it’s gone.
“We picked up a couple pieces of debris that day, the day after,” Davis said. “And actually some larger debris had been coming off of it since Hurricane Dorian came through. The swells from Dorian were pretty intense coming through our inlet, even though we didn’t sustain a direct hit.”
In hindsight, Davis said he believes a series of storms such as Hurricanes Matthew and Dorian in recent years probably did most of the damage early on, with the strong storm that blew through the region on Halloween night finishing the job.
He said the cabin used to have a deck until swells from Matthew helped rip it off, and that’s the last time he saw anyone around the cabin.
He added that the inlet has widened substantially in recent years, and that as a result, the swells and the strength behind them have increased, too.
“To me, it sometimes feels like the pickle jar, where the person before loosened up the lid just a little bit and now the lid popped off when the next person tries to open it up,” Davis said. “I think Dorian was one of the weakening blows that ended up causing the cabin to eventually collapse.”
In fact, he wonders if a 25-30 foot piling he and his father pulled out of the water after Dorian was probably part of what kept the cabin standing all these years.
“I’m thinking these storms had shifted the weight on those pilings, and I’m going to guess a lot of those pilings had collapsed,” Davis said. “So it was several storms over a period of time and then also just exposure to the salt air causing those galvanized nails, galvanized screws to just let go. Galvanized nails aren’t going to last 20-25 years in the saltwater air.”
The Coast Guard issued a warning to boaters to watch out for the cabin that day.
It hasn’t really been seen since though, and Davis thinks the cabin was probably broken up and destroyed by the currents, winds and waves.