The Crafty Beachcomber

I’m combining forces with this blog and my new Facebook page, “Crafty Beachcomber“.

For the past few years you’ve been reading of my adventures along the Gulf Coast and other beachy places I’ve visited and lived. I have written about hurricanes, salt water fish tanks, “Beggar” the Dolphin from Sarasota, sea glass hunting in Hawaii, giant Lego washing ashore on Siesta Key and more.  Now I want you to enjoy the projects I’m constructing with my beach finds. I will post them through this blog as well as keep up the usual coastal stories. Hopefully you’ll learn how to make a few things with your beach finds or maybe you can send me a note to share with my readers about what you make.

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If you aren’t already a subscriber to this blog, please sign up to follow it.  Find Crafty Beachcomber on Facebook and LIKE the page.  I also have an Etsy store, The Crafty Beachcomber, that I hope you visit.

Thanks for joining me and I look forward to entertaining you with my coastal addiction.

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Seaglass Beachcombing on Oahu, HI

Gary and I traveled the road from Waikiki to North Shore twice during our recent trip to Oahu.  My goal was to beachcomb.  But along the way we also stopped at roadside stands to try new foods like Poi, a Spam sandwich, Pineapple gum and real Hawaiian Shave Ice.  We saw lots of sites including a famous blow hole, a Macadamia Nut farm, shrimp farms, the wind farm, a classic old grocery, the Sugar Mill ruins, dormant volcanoes, birds we don’t have here in the Southeastern states.  We could even smell the volcanic soil as we drove along the coast.

The beaches where we stopped included a few scenic pull-offs (some with a beach, some not), Sandy Beach, Waialee Beach, Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay Beach, Ehukai Beach Park where you find the famous Banzai Pipeline and, of course, Waikiki Beach.  We also stopped at Sharks Cove to swim.  On our second trip up that road we caught the Vans Surf Competition in progress, thanks to a big swell forecasted that day from a storm off of California’s coast.

Sandy Beach HI, my favorite spot for sea glass and the best spot for body surfing if you know what you're doing.

Sandy Beach HI, my favorite spot for sea glass and the best spot for body surfing if you know what you’re doing.

Surf Competition

Surf Competition

We collected sand from 4 beaches.  They are all so different in color and texture; from grey to orange the sand was also fine to granular.  The most grainy being almost like corn meal and difficult to walk on.  

We found a few shells but mostly coral.  I found two Slate Pencil Sea Urchin spines (my bonanza for the trip), several Limpets, and what I think is a Serpents-head Cowrie. Glass was more plentiful at Sandy, Waialee and Sunset than the rest although for a whole day beach combing I found about the same amount I’d find in places like Sanibel or at Turtle Beach on Siesta Key in FL or Fairhope Beach here in Alabama.  What I did notice was that the glass is much smaller…most of what I found was pebble sized, although there were 4 large pieces, two being the bottom remnants of  a bottle (one in brown, one in white) and very worn.  And, I collected more green in Hawaii than anywhere else I collect from on the Southeast beaches.

Back at home, the sand we collected is distributed among 4 different clear Christmas ball ornaments, labeled and ribboned and hanging on our tree.  I also purchased 4 unique bottles with cork stoppers from Michael’s Craft Store, used glass paint pens to label them and filled each with sand to display around the house.  I have other sand from places I’ve lived or visited (Lido Key and Siesta Key, FL; Gulf Shores, AL; Ocean City, MD to name a few)  This idea is all over Pinterest but I’ve had my bottles way before then. 

Beach sand in labeled bottles on my bookshelf

Beach sand in labeled bottles on my bookshelf

I have a small green-tinted bud vase from Pier One holding my Hawaiian glass, shell and coral finds and a beach-themed photo box holding our other collectibles from the trip.

My Hawaiian Beachcombing Finds

My Hawaiian Beachcombing Finds

As far as beach combing is concerned, remember that the tide carries what it wants.  One day it might be a lot of shells, one day sea glass, other days algae.  You may also get nothing.  Because someone wrote a blog about their great finds doesn’t mean you’ll get the same when you travel to that place.  I learned that a long time ago, but the way some bloggers write about their experiences, you’d think it’s a daily occurence of great finds.  But do know this…what ever you find, you found it.  The adventure, the experience, the time was yours and should be memorable.  I had a blast. 

Can’t wait to go again.

Rules of Beachcombing

I’m heading to Hawaii in a few days. I’m excited to see the state but equally excited to go beachcombing. I’m concerned though that whatever I might find (glass, shells, etc) won’t be able to make it home with me. There are laws in coastal states regarding what you can take. Here’s the run down:

In Hawaii, you need a permit if you want to take specimens for a reef tank or education.   Without a permit you are forbidden to take Stoney Coral, live rocks, Pink Coral, Gold Coral from the waters of Hawaii.

“Chapter 171.58.5 of Hawai`i Revised Statutes states:

Prohibitions. The mining or taking of sand, dead coral or coral rubble, rocks, soil or other marine deposits seaward from the shoreline is prohibited with the following exceptions:(1) The taking from seaward of the shoreline of such materials, not in excess of one gallon per person per day for reasonable, personal, noncommercial use;

The other three exceptions are to allow replenishment or protection of public shoreline areas, clearing of stream mouths, and cleaning of areas seaward of the shoreline for state or county maintenance.

Taking of sand on a regular basis for use as a product for sale would be considered as constituting a commercial use, which is not permissible.”

Action Sports Maui.com states that it’s best to leave chunks of coral and shells on the beach. They say that since the beach is made of crushed coral and shells, leaving them there will promote further beach enhancement. That’s sound environmental thinking. They did suggest that if you do find that special shell, as long as there is not a live creature inside, take it. I have not found any laws against beachcombing other than coral, rocks and soil and since my main interest is sea glass, I think I’m safe there.

Collecting live specimens on most beaches in America is prohibited by law but in some cases hard to manage the law so items do “walk” off the beaches and into peoples homes, schools, and the suitcases in your car’s trunk.   I had an uninvited live specimen one day from Turtle Beach in FL.  It was quite stinky but made for a great story.

The sand bars off Siesta Key, FL, are a great place to find sand dollars.  I have hundreds of white sand dollar tests.  We found a family, one day, collecting live ones and displaying them on the beach along the wrack line.  Consequently, the sand dollars were dying.  A passerby hastily began throwing them back in the water, while scolding this family.  A few sand dollars had already died.  I was interested in the event and took a few trying to revive them but they were not moving even one fine spine.  Being a 4H leader, I knew at this point it was ok to take these specimens.  I have three of them from that day that I’ve used for education in 4H, science lessons, art lessons and marine biology.  I donated one to a nature center in Alabama. Children are fascinated that sand dollars aren’t originally white (they are green and furry) and that the white part is really the skeleton or test of a living creature.  I use this story to promote conservation.

Visitors to Florida beaches (non-residents) must have a fishing license before collecting live specimens.  You can take up to 20  invertibrates per person per day.  There is a limit on things you can take, for instance, it is unlawful to possess Fan Corals, Hard Corals, Fire Corals, Black Coral, FL Queen Conch, Bahama Starfish and Longspine Urchin except with a permit from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. You cannot harvest live rock in FL State waters.  But, there are great shells along the Florida coast from the west to the east and the Keys; Sanibel Island being the best known for shelling.  Do take and enjoy what you find but remember to check for the live creature inside.  If it’s there, throw it back.  You will find another shell like it.

Regardless of where you are traveling, even to your own local beach, find out the laws.  When in doubt, check with your hotel (stateside or abroad) or the local Fish & Wildlife office in the state you are visiting.

Shipwrecks dot the oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, most notably around North Carolina and in the Carribbean.  The Outerbanks and Florida Keys are great places to find old items washed up after storms.  These could be from shipwrecks or remnants of someones house once destroyed by a hurricane.  I didn’t find any laws regarding shipwreck finds from the various coastal states.  Grab a shovel and a metal detector if you plan to hunt for treasure.

In other countries, items from shipwrecks washing ashore may have to stay in that country.  Take Belize, for example.  A friend, whose family lives there, was telling me of antique glass bottles that wash ashore supposedly from one of the many shipwrecks (they are from the late 1800s, early 1900s).  Her family has found other relics that they keep around their home.  They’d be thrown in jail or heavily fined if caught with any of these items in their luggage on a plane leaving the country so if you find any, leave them.  Most shells aren’t allowed out of the country either. Be sure to check local laws.  A vacation is nice, but an extended one in jail is not.

Since I live in Alabama, I can’t leave out our beachcombing and shelling laws.  I really can’t find any.  So take what you find except for live critters.  Many homes were carried out to sea in the last 6 to 7 years from hurricanes.  Some items are finding their way onto our shore.  Keep your eyes open.

In Texas, Galveston is said to be “The” place to beachcomb.  And, I read where the Fish and Wildlife people have stated the Gulf of Mexico beaches are the best in the country for shelling. I’ve been to Sanibel and was not disappointed.  Venice Beach, FL is great for fossils and shark teeth, Turtle Beach, FL, at what used to be Midnight Pass, is excellent also.

So, all of the laws I’ve found regarding beachcombing have pertained to specimen collecting.  There seem to be no shells that are so “rare” that you can’t take them, but even so it would be hard to enforce.  There is one place that enforcement, I’m told, is active and that is Glass Beach, California. The beach is property of the California State Park system and the taking of glass is prohibited.  The area was once a dumping ground for Ft. Bragg residents.  Fires were occasionally set to minimize the trash.  Years of surf pounding has broken up the remaining trash the beach is a beautiful collection of colored glass.  There are other trash items on this beach so wear sturdy shoes and keep a 1st Aid kit in case you cut yourself and leave the sea glass there.

Hawaii has a Glass Beach, too.  It’s on Kauai.  I doubt I’ll get there since we’re going to Oahu but I have read that sea glass hunting on Waikiki Beach is awesome.  I’ll find out soon and now that I know the laws, I will be bringing some home.

My car conched out!

My car was so stinky when I got into it yesterday to drive to a meeting.  The whole way I kept thinking “what died in here”.  Wracking my brain I thought of maybe a small lizard got in the car and shriveled up, or worse a snake (we have them on our property) or maybe something I brought from the beach and left in the car.  So I got out and went to my meeting.  Two hours later I got into the car and nearly threw up. 

Seashells!  Maybe there’s a dead clam in the kid’s beach toy bag.  Travis likes finding clams and bringing them home, so that’s got to be it.  So I opened the back door and looked through all the bags, and then found, in the crate where we place our beach buckets when they have shells in them, a Florida Fighting Conch shell that was left behind.  As soon as I picked it up juice/water started dripping out and then as I held it over the parking lot the dead conch slid out with all its dead gooey-ness. 

Oh, you could probably smell it in the next county.  I moved the crate and threw baby powder on the carpet to soak up any ick that might have dripped on it.  I had to drive home (from east of I-75 to Siesta Key) with the windows down which is really one of my pet peeves because it blows my hair in my face and its annoying (my hair is in that in-between stage of growing out, and its bothersome in the wind) but I managed and was able to breathe fresher air with the windows down.

I did get the smell out.  I left the back door and one of the side doors open all day today. 

We had gone to Turtle Beach this past Saturday and found this shell.  I remember it because it was so perfectly polished and colorful.  I also remember placing it on top of my bucket because I showed it to my husband before we drove home that day.  The critter must have crawled off the bucket and landed at the bottom of the crate until I found it dead.

Moral of the story: make sure when you’re beachcombing that every shell you find ends up out of your car when you get home.

More on Tropical Storm Fay

When the boys were little we lived in Myrtle Beach.  We evacuated several times over the years for their safety.  One time, and cannot remember the name of the storm, we stayed.  We simply boarded the windows, put everything in the garage and hung out.   We had power the whole time as it was a minimal category one storm and all of our power lines were under ground.  We spread out sleeping bags, ate pizza, watched cartoons.  We fell asleep with flashlights on.  The boys had fun.

Now they’re older, and this storm is making them nervous.  The Sarasota County schools are closed tomorrow to be used as shelters and so the neighbor kids told them they will have the day off from school.  Then they told my boys that they might have to stay in a hotel “if things get bad” because they have a bearded dragon for a pet and can’t take it to the shelter.  So now, not only are my boys bummed that they still have school tomorrow (since I homeschool them) but they’re super worried that “things will get bad”.  Its no use watching the Weather Channel talk endlessly about where Fay might make landfall.  It looks big and menacing on the radar.  They’ll just have to learn to deal with storms.  After all, we spent four years in NW Mississippi, and a half year in TX and endured countless trips to the closet as tornadoes skirted by.  We even traced the path of a tornado in our town to see what kind of damage it caused.  While it left it’s impact on my boys, watching and waiting is proving tough for them.

So what has happened so far?  We had a few minutes of rain twice since noon today.  Oh, and the sunset (what we saw from our house) was beautiful.  The whole sky was a light cobalt and pinkish-orange reflecting on the high cirrus clouds scattered about.  Directly above the sunset the cloud was pure yellow.  Too bad it didn’t translate well on film.

Everything is stored and secure and we’ll just wait until Fay passes.  I can hear my wind chimes out back so the wind has picked up.  I can’t wait to go beach combing on Wednesday.  Maybe we’ll take that day off from school…just kidding.

Tropical Storm Fay

I can’t wait until Fay has passed.  I’m going to bet the beachcombing will be unbelievable.  There are several shells I haven’t found yet, one being the purple snail, and I’m hoping they’ll be on my beach this week. 

We’ve had red flags and rip currents all week so my husband, Gary,  hasn’t been able to go to the beach.  I’d go just for a walk, but he likes his “hydro” so we’ve found other things to do.  We finally went today…green flag.  While he and boys swam, I combed the beach.  Here’s what I found: lots of beautiful, small shells, strange bones (again, which I’ll write about separately), coral pieces, fairly large pieces of drift wood, green sea glass and a penny.  I’m not able to download the pictures right now so check back later to see them.

The waves were super calm this morning.  Later, we went back.  While the tide was far out the waves were a bit choppy.  Gary took off to swim, I walked down the beach.  There is a sand bar you can walk  to just north of the public beach area.  You can also access it from the south of the public beach as it was pretty much an extension of the beach at that point.  Well, today, the sands have shifted.  I walked toward the south from beach access 5 and found myself on the sand bar.  I didn’t see anything where it usually is. 

My family and I like to go to the sandbar at low tide.  The sand dollars are plentiful there.  We must have 300-400 of them.  As I walked along today I found a few but they were live sand dollars.  I left them there.  They’re so beautiful, green, sometimes with a purple hue, and rough to the touch.