Note: This is the second of two parts. Click here to read from the beginning.
Shelling is always a favorite pastime of mine on Sanibel.
There are literally millions of shells on the beaches, and near where we stay, they accumulate in giant heaps, several feet deep and sometimes a quarter mile long. Combing through these piles is like treasure hunting.
In the shops on the island, you’ll find all kinds of gear for shelling—like mesh bags to hold your collection and special rakes with wire mesh on one end in varying sizes.
You scoop into the shells in the water, capturing everything from sand and shrimp to shells, and then give a pass through the water so that all that remains are the goodies. Then you sift through them—Florida conchs, olive shells, cockles, scallops, cat’s paws.
I bought a shell rake my first year but learned later there is no substitute for just hunkering down and sorting through the gems with your hands.
I bring an empty duffel with me on the trip and pack the shells I find to take home. This year, I couldn’t help but find shells all over the beaches in the morning as I ran. Conchs and cockles and olives galore. I had to make rules for myself on how often I stopped so I could actually get a workout in, and I found a new shell I’d never spotted before: a turkey wing.
Mark and I are compatible in how we do vacation. We seek out places on the beach where others don’t go, and we soak in the sun for an entire day. Then we repeat. And repeat. This year, we packed our substantial gear and biked to the beach in Captiva one day, but mostly, we simply walked to different spots in Sanibel, near where we were staying.
We have a favorite location on the outer edges of Bowman’s Beach, but this year we trekked to a new hotspot, where Mark found a lean-to in the scrub brush about a mile and a half from our cottage.
Getting there is a feat worthy of a Sherpa, but we managed just fine. We packed lunches, snacks, waters, Gatorades, towels, snorkel gear, books, cameras and a chair we managed to find on the beach—and off we went.
The lean-to was special because it elicited in us the feeling of picnicking in a fort as kids. Whoever built it stocked it with a concrete block for a table, a clothesline and a second chair. It had spots of sun and shade and made the coziest of nests. Being in our fort felt like playing house.
Other highlights this year included a massive construction project at the beach closest to our cottage. Workmen were laying pipe two-feet in diameter to draw water and sludge from the bay-side and build up the shoreline beyond the bridge that crosses into Captiva. The idea is to defy the constant erosion and rebuild the shoreline.
Each day, we also had the chance to giggle at the nude bather who could be seen removing his thong bathing suit when he thought there was no one around.
And we ate aplenty—oysters on the half shell, fried oysters, clam chowder and lots of grilled local fish.
We keep talking about heading back to Sanibel for a weekend to escape the spring gloom here. But, we’re just talking.