Beach and Sea Treasures

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.)

Al's one day bonanza of sea glass. A few pieces will need to be returned for more "work" in the tumbling sands and waves.

Al’s one day bonanza of sea glass. A few pieces will need to be returned for more “work” in the tumbling sands and waves.

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.

My hand-painted baby plate

My hand-painted baby plate

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.

A road on Man-O-War Cay lined with conch shells.

A road on Man-O-War Cay lined with conch shells.

Conch shells lining a garden

Conch shells lining a garden

 

A fountain filled with conch shells in Marsh Harbor

A fountain filled with conch shells in Marsh Harbor

Especially nice conch shell water spout in the garden outside of the Hope Town Museum

Conch shell water spout in the garden outside of the Hope Town Museum – love this!

Grandpa's shells for sale on Man-O-War. We want to find our own - that's have the fun and challenge!

Grandpa’s shells for sale on Man-O-War. We want to find our own – that’s half of the fun and challenge!

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.

Notice the holes/slits from where the conch creature was pulled.

Notice the holes/slits from where the conch creature was pulled.

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.

The first three conch, clean and shiny pink!

The first three conch, clean and shiny pink!

Two old white conch shells

Two old white conch shells

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.

COnch shells sitting in a bucket of water and bleach

Conch shells sitting in a bucket of water and bleach

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.

Cleaning conch on the back deck

Cleaning conch on the back deck

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.

Conch shells and sea biscuits sitting out to try next to the mast

Conch shells and sea biscuits sitting out to try next to the mast

Peeling the  peri off the shell. This takes repeated attempts with a variety of tools, over many days

Peeling the periostracum off the shell. This takes repeated attempts with a variety of tools, over many days.

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!

Al washed the sea biscuits after their bleaching.

Al washed the sea biscuits after their bleaching.

Sea biscuits!

Sea biscuits!

A close-up to show the details of the patterns

A close-up to show the details of the patterns

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.”

Teeny tiny sea shells

A sampling of my teeny, tiny sea shells (yes, sampling means there are more…..)

Sunrise telling are one of the most beautiful shells, but harder to find in one piece.

Sunrise tellins have beautiful yellows and pinks, but are harder to find in one piece.

Small pieces of coral that catch my fancy

Small pieces of coral that catch my fancy

Even the soft pinks of broken conch shells can be beautiful when they are worn smooth by the wave action.

Even the soft pinks of broken conch shells can be beautiful when they are worn smooth by the waves and sand.

Worn pieces of pottery are one of Al's favorites, especially when a pattern remains.

Worn pieces of pottery are one of Al’s favorites, especially when a pattern remains.

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.

3 thoughts on “Beach and Sea Treasures

  1. Pingback: Got Conch? | Kindred Spirit

  2. Hi Michele and Al – what a wonderful lesson in shell hunting and cleaning. I am in love with the sea biscuits. Thanks for sharing all your treasures! I can almost smell the ocean … if only…getting very cold here in the Northeast.
    Karen

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