Many who venture to the Sunshine State for a long weekend, a two week vacation or perhaps for a well earned retirement, end up on a beach. While some might think an afternoon in Paradise should be spent lounging about on the warm sand, others have come to view a trip to the ocean’s edge as a treasure hunt. Shelling can be an addictive hobby that sneaks up on you after just one or two finds. So if you’re willing to risk getting “swept away” into this tropical pastime, here are some common sense rules to improve your haul from Florida’s sandy shores.
Rule #1 - Know the Law.
Make sure you’re well versed in the federal, state and county laws with regards to shell collecting. Each region has its own rules and there are fines involved for violators. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse so find out ahead of time if live shelling is allowed and for what kind of shells. Limits might also restrict how many shells can be taken at one time.
Rule #2 - Dress appropriately.
Florida is called the Sunshine State for a good reason. Sunscreen, a wide brim hat and UV sunglasses will help protect as will long sleeved shirts and long pants. And don’t forget about the tops of your feet - Skin is skin and it will all burn with too much sun exposure. Covering up will also help protect against the mosquitoes and no see ums that reside on the coastlines and despite the fact that Florida does a great job controlling these pests in populated areas, these natives still tend to rule the beaches from dusk to dawn.
Rule #3 - Stay Hydrated.
As stated above, it is the Sunshine State. It’s easy to find you have strolled a mile or two…or three down the beach and now are in need of a drink of water. While Florida boasts 663 miles of public beaches, public water fountains are few and far (and I mean real far) between. Be prepared and pack more than enough H2O or other thirst quenchers - non alcoholic - and monitor how far you’re away from your starting point.
Rule #4 - Bring a snack.
It never hurts to be prepared and just like the drinking water situation, finding food on the endless beaches of Florida can be a fool’s quest. Unless you plan to hunt for shells on the sandy shores located in front of major resorts and hotels, you’ll need to pack a lunch or at least a granola bar or two to make sure hunger pains don’t spoil your day of “shell shopping”.
Rule #5 - Stand and Stretch
Like the saying goes – Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s very easy to lose track of time while patrolling the tidal lines for that perfect shell. Even if you’ve parked your bottom next to a mound of shells, your eyes will be cast down to the sand and you won’t even realize that the sun has tracked across the sky. Try to stretch often to avoid low back ache or more than likely, neck ache. Your body will thank you.
Rule #6 - Know the tides
This is especially important if you plan to cruise a narrow beach with few places to exit. The tides are controlled by the moon and the sun. It can also be influenced by the on shore winds and bad weather far off the coast line. As beautiful as the coastline can be, even the most avid of nature lovers would not want to be forced to spend the day or, worse, a night, waiting for the tide to fall. Remember there are no see ums and mosquitoes by the bucket load and they come alive between dust and dawn.
Rule #7 - Prepare for the Pests
If you plan on starting your shelling by experiencing sunrise at the beach, be forewarned - you won’t by the only one up and on the hunt. If the wind is up, you might be alright but why chance it – be prepared and have some type of repellent. There are many to choose from and many locals swear that the product Skin So Soft by Avon is the best. Others use a clip on product that hangs from your clothing to avoid applying formulas directly on skin or clothing. The choice is yours, just remember – mosquitoes and no see ums love the sandy beaches of Florida just as much as the tourists.
Rule #8 - Bring A Bag
While some seasoned shellers might be looking for that one special olive or lion’s paw, most newbies are easily overwhelmed by their first taste of shelling and tend to quickly fill each and every available pocket with ‘treasure’. Many will resort to using their hat or even a shirt to haul their load and though one or two shells may not weigh much, your arms will let you know that a couple of dozen is uncomfortable. Plastic bags, like the ones from the grocery are fine and easily fit in a pocket on your way to the beach, but they tend to rip if overfilled. Mesh bags are preferred as they are reusable, washable and store easily. A bucket also works but can be clunky against your leg.
Rule #9 - Optional Hand Tools
Some collectors preferred to try their luck by ‘fishing’ for shells where the water rolls at the edge of the beach. There can be a bit of a step in these areas and the easiest way to find shells is to use a scoop - a wire basket attached to a long pole that allows you to bring a nice amount of shells up and out of the water without getting wet. The contents of the scoop are then deposited on higher land for inspection. Some also like to bring a small garden type hand shovel to help push shells aside or dig a bit into the sand for buried treasure. Later you’ll use other tools while cleaning your shells.
Rule # 10 - Enjoy Paradise
Finding a perfect shell can be a rush, but is not always easy. Dedicated shellers might spend years searching for that one missing piece to complete their hard earned collection. But no matter the day, or the weather or the treasure, a day at the beach is better than a day any where else on earth.
So relax and enjoy the salt in your hair, the shells in your pocket and the sand in your shoes.