Before you hunt the great salt beach
Everyone who ever used a metal detector hears the storys of the salt beaches and wants to try their luck there someday. The salt beaches are truly an attractive place to hunt with the gentle sounds of the sea and gulls flying around but beyond all that you will almost certainly walk out onto that large expanse of sand stretching for endless miles and be somewhat intimidated by the size of it.
You may have brought that detector that your brother-in-law loaned you or the one that you picked up at the pawn shop for $25 dollars and it will truly be tested today. The beach always looks about the same but everyday is different from the next and every year is different from the following years. The problem is that there are too many variables like winds, currents, rainfall, and storms. Each shapes and changes the beach.
First before you begin you should only be hunting a very active portion of the beach either now or one which has been active in the past. If it is summer and the crowds are still there you might want to wait until early morning to avoid the crowd or shortly after a rain. There will be lots of coins dropped into the soft dry summer sand and are easy to find but you should have a dry sand scoop to locate them. In very dry sand you can chase a coin around forever! Sometimes I take a shovel and dish out the sand over the top of the other sand but it doesn’t work too well because of the weight of the coin it just dives for cover!
I see lots of people use dry sand scoops in wet sand and that is entirely unsatisfactory. First of all you have to stoop and put out lots of effort to cut through the wet sand and over time you will tire too easily. Most detectors will complain loudly like a tree full of magpies if you get it too close to the salt water. Most detectors will not get the depth necessary on dry or wet sand. Many of the best finds are out of range deep.
When you venture out onto the sand for the first time don’t just start swinging. Stop and look for five minutes at what you see. Look at the beach in detail and there is a huge amount of detail to see. Look to see at the level of the beach. Does it lie flat? Is there a long slope to the water or a short one? Look at the waves and see which direction they move. Look down the beach and look to see if there are dips in it. The dips might be caused by heavy rains that washed down the sand level to where you might be able to find some old coins. Look close to the water and do you see nothing but water lapping at the shore or do you see a second line of water running back from the beach. All these things are extremely important and they are what you should pay attention to when you get to the beach. To teach you faster then keep a beach journal and write down the date, wind direction, and all the notes that you can about the beach condition.
That is the best way to start but if you are on vacation and are only there for a day or two using a questionable detector then just stay in the dry sand but look to the line where the people lay on the sand and walk down that line for a good long way before you try it elsewhere. The waters edge is not for beginners and has to do with the sea level and where exactly the level is compared to high tide and low tide. It might look good to you but even if your detector worked there without chattering and even if it would detect deep you still would not know where the water line was in relation to the beach and that is very important. Everyone who thinks that they are a beach hunter heads for the waters edge and the waters edge is over hunted and stripped out generally. It is good only in times when the tide is exceptionally low and only when it has NOT been that low before. If it goes out that far too often then the hunters will strip everything out there too. That is why you need to keep records and aside from records pictures are invaluable!!
Everyone has heard of the jewelry at the wet sand and the edge of the water and if you want to hunt it then you have to outsmart all the other hunters. You must be there at the low tide peak if it is midnight, on the backside of a Nor’easter with the winds screaming and times and conditions like that. Your first time to the beach should be for two reasons. For informational purposes to save for reference and to have some fun and pick up some new coins. Bring some bread and feed the gulls and take time to relax to maximize your trip. Remember everyone hunts the beach but most people make huge mistakes and may never come close to understanding the complexity of it or finding the treasures.