One of my favorite cruising shore activities is to walk along the beach and search for treasures. This is more commonly known as beachcombing. I freely admit I am a passionate beachcomber and love the exercise, the hunt, and it also is meditative, allowing you time to think as you search.
Above is a photo taken on Hoffman Cay in The Berry Islands, Bahamas, when Ethan and I spent a day beachcombing with another cruising boat, ISLAND TIME. Ken and Paula Shur, along with Ethan, are shown walking along the beach.
What do I collect? I like to divide my beachcombing finds into two categories- natural and man-made.
Natural Beachcombing Treasures:
In the natural category, there are many things I look for, including the sand I walk on. I often will collect a small container of sand and label it to bring home at the end of each season. Once home, I organize them into spice jars for display. There are many sand collectors (called Psammophiles) around the globe, but I like to collect from places I’ve traveled to.
Sea Beans- Previous to cruising, I had never heard of sea beans, let alone knew that people collected them. One day, I was beachcombing with a cruising friend on Great Harbour Cay, Bahamas, and she found one. Curious, I asked her what is was and where did it come from? She explained that it was a floating seed from a tree or shrub that washed down streams to float in the ocean, which then carries them to distant shores. Many travel from Africa and South America.
I thought this sounded interesting, so I started looking for them. Only problem is that they can be tough to find. During my first six months beachcombing in the Bahamas, I only found two sea hearts. This past year, I collected more varieties and found my first hamburger bean, called this because it looks like a miniature hamburger.
Since learning about sea beans, I have passed on the joys of collecting with a few other cruisers. To learn more about sea beans, visit this website.
Shells- It stands to reason that I also collect shells. I enjoy all shells, including large and small. At the end of the season, I sort through them and take only those shells which I love or have special meaning. The rest are re-gifted back to the sea.
This past Mother’s Day, we were in Rock Sound, Eleuthera, and a local Bahamian woman was selling helmet shells to raise money for a local cancer charity. Joe bought me one as my Mother’s Day gift. I love it and brought it home for my shell collection.
Man Made Beachcombing Treasures:
You would be surprised at what you find washed up on the beach. Let me first start with the most common man made item- beach glass. Beach or Sea Glass are created by the waves and sand polishing old broken glass from hand blown bottles to the more common glass colors of white, green and brown of beer and soda bottles. Beach glass should be tumbled smooth and have a frosty appearance, otherwise I simply throw them back for nature to finish the job.
Bottles- yes, I have found intact bottles from Europe, North Africa and South America on Bahamian beaches. The funniest bottle find was a prescription bottle of Testosterone with the label still intact. This was most likely tossed off a cruise ship and it ended up in the trash. A rare find is a bottle pre-dating from before the twentieth century and can be quite valuable.
Buoys- Joe cringes when I arrive back from a beachcombing adventure with buoys in tow. I am especially fond of the larger metal ones, but also collect the smaller ones, too. On more than 1 occasion, Joe has re-donated a buoy back to King Neptune when I am not looking.
Misc. Plastics- I tend to find round plastic balls that I first thought were related to fishing. I have since learned that they are ponytail holder balls with the elastic long gone. I also find plastic army men, and assorted beach toys.
Where to Find Treasures?
Know your local sea current patterns. In the Bahamas, I like to visit shores that are very difficult to visit. I call these trips “Extreme Beachcombing,” because you must get creative to actually get to the beach and usually involve long hikes on sharp rocks. These shores produce the most interesting finds.
I also don my snorkeling mask, fins and beachcomb in the shallows when there are no waves and you can safely do so. Be aware of the local marine life as I have been chased out of the water by a visiting shark or barracuda.
If you haven’t yet discovered the simple pleasure of a beachcombing walk on the shore, I hope you will try it once. Even if you do not find a single treasure, you will enjoy the sound of the waves crashing ashore, and the enjoyment that a beach walk brings to the soul.