Guest Post: Adventures With Jim: Beach Hunting 101, Getting Ready for a Metal Detecting Beach Vacation.
So this is it, the big day. Your vacation is finally here and you’ve made it to the ocean and there’s miles of endless sunshine, bikinis and sandy beach stretched out ahead of you. Well, now what? Where do you even begin? Here’s how to get ready for it!
First let’s talk about what the beach is, define some terms. In the back are the Dunes, in most places these are strictly off limits and mercilessly enforced. Even casual beach goers will rat you out in a heart beat. Next you’ll find the Upper Beach, the nice, flat, dry portion of the beach usually paved with sun bathers and volley ball courts. Below this is the High Tide line. Most beaches don’t get completely submerged daily, but have a marked line of light weight debris you can spot easily. Between this and the Low Tide line is the Wet Sand, things will change radically for your metal detector here. The Surf Line is just the current location of the edge of the water and Cuts are places the ocean has dug into the sand for you.
Where you can hunt will depend entirely on which metal detector you’ve brought with you. A Bounty Hunter will be useless in the wet sand, as will most land VLF machines, though you can still hunt the upper beach. In any case, headphones are required, forget about the wind and surf noise, the other beach goers will get seriously pissed off and end your day early. If your machine has a manual ground balance, you will be able to get closer to the surf line in most cases, though you will lose depth as the saltwater content of the sand goes up.
What sort of digging tool you bring will depend on your machine, if you’re just on vacation with your land metal detector, even a good one (or At Pro…waterproof though it may be, it’s STILL just a land VLF machine), you’ll likely be limited to everything above the surf line. Don’t waste your money on that fancy long handled sand scoop, they are not as useful in dry sand as you might think, they get plugged with shells, rocks and clumping wet sands. A broad, sharp pointed tool is far more effective here than a scoop. It is only at the surf line and below you need a scoop, holes are impossible to dig here, the water will fill them in faster than you can dig them out. The scoop suddenly becomes an effective tool when you can remove large amounts of sand and hopefully the target all at once and have a steady flow of water to rinse out the sand and shells.
One last item for the tool kit: a bucket. Yes, of course you have your usual finds bag, but sand like this is a whole different animal, it will find it’s way into absolutely everything. The objects you’ll find will be damp and coated with sand, forget about cleaning them on site, no matter what you do they will accumulate more sand before the end of the day. A plastic bucket is far easier to wash out at the end of the day than a fabric bag. You’ll also need a place for the over sized objects you find along the way, beer cans, shells, drift wood, weird treasures that get washed in. And please remember to haul away the garbage you dig, while not exciting as far as beach treasures go, it’s the reason we’re allowed to hunt these often deeply historic places: every day metal detector hobbyists haul away massive amounts of garbage, fishing tackle, broken glass and random rusty bits. Clean beaches keep us in favor with the locals, keeps these places open for digging. That beer can you leave buried in the woods because your bag is full is relatively harmless, that same beer can on the beach will get dug up by the ocean and eventually shredded into thousands of sharp little bits. The trash you haul away here really does make a difference.
Are you dressed for the task? Two things to remember, you are going to get wet and everything will get covered in sand. Even if you go no where near the surf line, the air itself is often filled with wind driven salt water spray and you guessed it…sand. Take a dry set of clothing, wrap in plastic bags and leave in the car, change at the end of the day, the ride back to the hotel will be FAR more comfortable. Most tourist beaches have a free fresh (ish) water shower somewhere near by, you’ll want to find this too.
Shoes are a must, walking barefoot all day on sand isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most local shops will try to pawn off “surf shoes” on you, feel free to go ahead and skip these. “Surf Shoes” are miserably bad for beach combing, the sand works it’s way into the seams, creates bulges and rub your feet raw. And they are almost impossible to wash out. They are meant for surfers who are out in the water on their surf boards, not walking around on the sand for hours. Crocs are truly the best shoe ever made for the beach, one piece rubber, easy to wash out, even on the fly. Walk down to surf and dangle your feet in the water, presto, clean shoes. Sandals are good as well, anything rubber or plastic without alot of seams, something that you can easily wash will work. A pair of gym shoes will be trash by the end of the day and your feet will be covered in blisters.
Don’t forget sunscreen! There is rarely any sort of cover on the beach, you are going to roast all day in the sun. A hat and cheap sunglasses are useful as well. The sheer intensity of the sun on the beach is like few other places, be ready for it.
Some final notes on useful items to have: ziplock baggies, these are great for your phone, camera, things you want to keep dry, but especially useful for ocean treasures like sea shells. It may LOOK dry, but it isn’t, organic laced water has soaked deeply into it this can smell pretty ripe on the way home and soak into other things placed near it. (Wash sea shells in fresh water before starting home, they will smell less bad) Some sort of thermos for water is handy (fits in the bucket too), you can find yourself miles from any source of fresh water at times. Food isn’t such a good idea, nice to have a snack along the way, but you know, SAND.
And if you remember nothing else from this guide, remember this one crucial act: LEAVE YOUR RINGS HOME! How do you think all those rings, necklaces, earring and watches got there in the first place? From TOURISTS who forgot this one vital rule of the beach 🙂