I love to collect shells. Really, it’s an excuse to wander the beach slowly, scanning the ground and stopping to pick up anything interesting.

Some Bahamas shells

Some Bahamas shells

I pick up big shells, conchs and even a helmet or two.

I pick up small ones, teeny ones even, to fill Kalik bottles along with a few handfuls of white white sand.

Hogsty Reef, with shells everywhere.

Hogsty Reef, with shells everywhere.

Pretty much, I don’t miss a chance to shell. Soon, the lazarette is filled with buckets of large conch shells, small conch shells, other shells. Sea beans.

I had never heard of sea beans until we were on board another boat for sundowners. I looked at their flat basket filled with these brown glossy round(ish) things and could not resist picking one up.

“It’s a sea bean. They’re pretty rare. Sometimes I walk a beach for hours before finding one. The best afternoon was when I found 3 in the space of one walk.”

I had a new obsession. Everywhere we went I hunted for sea beans.

I found hamburger beans. Purse beans. The ubiquitous heart bean. And yes, just as I had been told, they were pretty rare. Most days I came up empty. Some days I struck gold with finding one quickly. We might have had one “2-bean” day.

And then we hit Little Inagua. The year we were in the Bahamas with the kids, the wind stubbornly refused to play normal, instead howling from the west for days at a time. This made passages to the Caribbean an unheard of downwind sail, but we weren’t going to the Caribbean. We had to find interesting anchorages nobody ever went to (because you normally can’t anchor on that side), and we were very often (along with our buddies on Osprey) the only boat around.

A nail-biting slalom through a rock-strewn passage ended in a tranquil bay. Dinghies were launched and we all headed to shore to bushwhack or shell or wander and chat or build forts or find huge sticks.

“Mom! Beans!” Bee raced up to me, holding 5 perfect hamburger beans in her hands. “There are tons!”

I followed her, picking up beans with almost every step. Soon my shirt was bulging with my finds. I started getting picky, discarding any that were not exactly to my specifications.

A collection of shells and beans. And some sand.

A collection of shells and beans. And some sand.

I cleaned out a shelf in the garage the other day and found ziplock bags filled with sea beans from that day. There must be 600 of them in there, I think, most from that day in the southern Bahamas with our friends.

We’re going to keep them. We’ve tucked them into the pile of boxes that is destined for Vermont.

We’ll scatter them, along with big conch shells, occasionally, up at the beach. We hope that people will find them, wonder about them, and collect them.

What do you collect?