We obviously have a passion for sea glass; we readily admit that. Our life here in the Bahamas allows us to indulge in it quite frequently. Al had a jackpot day last week when he took a walk by himself (I was volunteering in the local school.)
But I also have an interest in collecting shells, with good reason. My maternal grandparents’ last name was Schell, which means that was my mother’s last name as well. The sound of my name, Michele, is an extension of that. This hand-painted baby plate marks my birthdate with a baby in a conch shell.
Conch (pronounced “konk”) is a Bahamian food specialty. All the restaurants have conch in some form on their menus – conch salad, conch fritters, conch chowder, cracked conch. We have had conch fritters, which are more dough than conch, but have yet to try any other recipe.
The Queen Conch shells are particularly beautiful with their deep pink and coral colors. Conch shells adorn lawns and homes everywhere. Sometimes they are artfully displayed and sometimes they are just tossed on the lawn or docks.
Conch live on the sea floor, in relatively shallow waters near reefs and in grassy areas. You must dive for conch and pick it up from the sea floor. Conch is a mollusk, basically a sea snail. To get the conch out of its shell, a slit is cut near the top with a hammer or tool, and the edge of a knife slides in to release the mollusk.
I was given a very nice conch shell by Rick and LouAnn (Imagine) who also own a cottage here in Hope Town. Then Al found two more for me that were in good shape. I also found two on the beach that were quite worn and white, but also charming in their own way.
If you read the previous post about Man-O-War, you know that we found a bed of conch shells not far from the anchorage. Some people might wonder why anyone would need to have more than 3 conch shells (or 5 if you count the old white ones.) For me, I’m not sure I can have too many. 🙂 But I suppose space may be the limiting factor, or so the skipper says. As you know from that blog post, we brought back five more shells, but now only have four thanks to my butterfingers.
It takes some work to get the shells all shiny and clean! To clean the shells I first scrubbed off any loose debris in the salt water, and then let them sit in a bucket of fresh water and bleach. Yes, I use fresh water for this. I think it is well worth the 35 cents per gallon.
The next day, I used a brush and a screwdriver and pick (from Al’s toolbox) to scrape off the more stubborn sea stuff that was clinging to the shell. Then back into the bleach. The bleach helps to rid the shells of any lingering odor.
Another quick rinse and the shells sit outside to dry. As they dry, the brownish organic skin coating, known as periostracum starts to peel away. I try to peel it all off so that only the shell underneath remains.
Ahhh, but there is more than conch to collect! There are other treasures that catch our eye as we walk the beaches so our collections are growing.
We now have six sea biscuits. Sea biscuits are part of the Echinoderms family and have similar five-way symmetry to their first cousins, sand dollars. Al is really good at picking them up off the sea floor, but they are usually dirty and gray. A good bleaching does wonders!
As we search along the sandy beaches for sea glass I also pick up anything else that intrigues me. I have been collecting as many small and tiny shells as possible so that I can make something, either a mosaic or perhaps my own version of a “sailors valentine.”
Sea glass, pottery, coral, and shells. “Treasure hunting” is one of our favorite past-times here and at home. These are souvenirs of our adventure that cannot be purchased because the experience of finding them is what makes them our treasures.