When the purple flag flies, it can mean a few things: Your plan to travel to or from the island is now delayed; you are unaffected because you were planning to stay put; or, you have the day off because your job is impacted by this declaration.
Purple flag days are a tradition on Block Island. When the American flag is replaced by a solid purple one on the flagpole located in the middle of Old Harbor, it means that winds are gusting so high that the boats aren’t running. It also means everyone’s staying, and no one is coming, at least by ferry.
Locals call it a “shore day.” And, as the weather is typically messy, a shore day is a fine day to hit the pub for a cold one.
The sense of isolation can be exhilarating. In fact, it isn’t really a feeling of isolation at all. It gives one the feeling that we are all here on our own and have to make the best of it; it reinvigorates a sense of community. It has the faint feeling of what it must have been like in the early days of boat travel when going to the mainland was a much more infrequent and precarious experience. It rejuvenates the feeling that Block Island is indeed unique.
If there are several purple flag days in a row (rare, but it happens), the boats that run on the first day of service are full of weary travelers who were unexpectedly stuck on the mainland, some of whom had to find a place to stay, and who are also excited to get back home.