Everyone begins by encumbering himself with all sorts of appliances, and, as he gains experience, leaves his appliances behind him. Take nothing with you except a can with a sling handle; and an earthenware jar, with a stout string by way of handle, is as good as anything else. The “tin” vessels sold in the shops are nothing but tinned iron, and are always liable to rust, which is simply poison to aquatic animals.
You may perhaps need a knife.
In that case, keep one for the purpose, and, as sharpness is not required, and the knife is used more for digging than cutting, the cheapest single-bladed knife that you can procure will be better for the purpose than a costly pocket-knife. A common glazier’s knife is a capital tool, as it is stout, strong, has no folding handle, and is quite sharp enough for the shore-hunter. Moreover, as a dip in sea-water will cover any knife with rust, it is better to have one which will not be harmed by any amount of rust.
Never mind a net at present, but it is as well to have a stick with a hooked handle. This will be useful as a support while stepping among the slippery rocks, and the hook is exceedingly valuable in drawing aside the masses of seaweed that droop over crevices which you will wish to explore.
As for dress, always take to the seaside the worst suit which you possess, and use it expressly for shore-hunting. Some persons have a special canvas suit, like that which is used by engineers while employed in the workshop; but anything will do, as the real shore-hunter cares nothing for appearances.
Make up your mind that you must get wet, and so have your clothing to suit the occasion. Stockings, of course, are needless, and the trousers should be rolled well over the knee and secured by a stout pin, otherwise they have a knack of coming down just as you are standing in a pool, with both hands engaged.
A pair of old shoes should always be worn; rock and pebbles are bad enough to walk upon with bare feet, but as the rocks are mostly studded with sharp shells, and pieces of broken bottles and earthenware are apt to lie about the shore, stout-soled shoes will often protect the feet from serious injury. Holes should be cut in the shoes to let the water run out when you come ashore.
Coats are needless, and the shirt-sleeves should be rolled up to the shoulder and pinned safely. As for hats or caps, the “polo” cap is perhaps the best, as it does not fall off or blow off, is light, and gives no trouble. So equipped, you will not be exactly costumed for the park or a dinner-party, but as I said before, you must utterly disdain appearances. I have often been taken for a shrimper, and sometimes for a bathing attendant, and accepted the mistake rather as a compliment than otherwise.
You will not have to wade to any great depth in the water, as the objects for which you are searching are mostly to be found in water not more than a few inches in depth, and most of them will be left high and dry by the receding tide.
Always have a local tide-table at hand; generally they can be purchased for a penny or so at any of the stationer’s and there will always be several accessible. Knowledge of the tides is an absolute necessity for the shore-hunter, who will have to regulate his work by the hours of the tide, the half-hour “slack” of low water being worth more to him than all the rest of the day.
“But” some persons may object – and do object – “this shore-hunting interferes with meal-times.” Of course it does, but what of that? People ought not to go to the seaside to carry on the regularity of their town hours; they go for a change, and nothing is a better change than the total abandonment of ordinary habits and customs. Moreover, the genuine shore-hunter troubles himself very little about regular meals, and if he should find himself very hungry while hard at work at low water, he can make a very good luncheon on the limpets and mussels which cling to almost every rock. I have done so many a time, not choosing to waste the invaluable hours in going to my lodgings.
(to be continued)