Feb 11 2007

Guest Post: Preparing for the Beach

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One of the things I like about metal detecting is the equipment. The beach is a specialized environment and selecting the right equipment can make a big difference concerning finds and comfort. Beach equipment can be categorized into apparel, headphones, probes, digging tools and metal detectors. There are also miscellaneous accessories that can make your trek along the beach more enjoyable.

The clothing you wear while detecting on the beach depends on the type of hunting you do and the weather. For dry and wet sand hunting you can just dress for the weather conditions. For shallow and deep water hunting you can wear anything from a bathing suit to hip-waders to a full wet-suit. You choice will depend on the weather, surf conditions and water temperature. The shoes you wear should provide comfort, but also some protection. You will be pushing on your digging tool with your foot and will be covering areas that may contain sharp metal or glass. I have found that I sometimes hit my foot accidentally with my digging tool and am thankful that I had some type of shoes on. Gloves can offer some protection when retrieving targets that may be sharp. Cutting the tip off one or more of the fingers allows you to manipulate the detector controls more easily. You may consider using kneepads. Some people use both kneepads, others use only one on the knee they kneel on when digging. Make sure that your finds pouch is large enough to hold the trash items you find, or attach a second pouch or plastic bag to your belt for trash.

The beach can be noisy. The crashing surf, the wind and the crowds can make it difficult to hear the tones generated by your detector. I prefer headphones that have full ear cups to reduce the ambient sound. When using these types of headphones you cannot hear what is going on around you and it is a wise precaution to look around often. There are some beaches and times of day where safety and caution are advisable. If you are deep water hunting you must have submersible headphones. These headphones are usually supplied with your submersible detector.

A probe can save time when you have a hard-to-find target. Some targets are very small and, when covered with sand, can be almost impossible to isolate without a probe. Probes can be used in the dry sand, wet sand and shallow water. Use a waterproof probe if you think it is going to get wet. Probes cannot be used in the deep water, unless you plan on diving down to the bottom to get up-close and personal with your target.

Your choice of digging tool for the beach is crucial. If you are digging in the dry or wet sand then a trowel, shovel or sand scoop can do the job. Once you get into the water, however, a good sand scoop is a necessity. Sand scoops come in a variety of sizes, configurations and weight. Some are made with wooden or galvanized pipe handles and some are made completely of aircraft aluminum or stainless steel. If you are not hunting deep water the lightweight models will do just fine. Most deep water veterans prefer the heavy rugged models. The added weight helps punch down into the sand when retrieving a target. Everyone seems to have a scoop configuration of choice – there are people who make custom scoops with lengths and handles configured specifically for the way you hunt. Having a large scoop capacity (usually referred to by the diameter of the scoop opening) can make successful target retrieval more likely. With a small scoop it can take many attempts to retrieve a target. Some people attach large magnets inside the scoop to catch any troublesome iron targets. When you can’t see the sea floor and the water is moving around you it can be difficult to zero in on your target. One method is to pinpoint the target, place your foot at the back of the coil, remove the coil, place your scoop in front of your foot, push the scoop into the sand and retrieve your target.

There are a multitude of detector types on the market that can be used on the beach. The different types present a confusing array of choices for someone unfamiliar with the technology and associated jargon. They can be loosely divided into two basic groups: PI (pulse-induction) and VLF (very low frequency, sometimes called induction-balance) machines. VLF machines can use one or more frequencies. There are also VLF hybrids such as BBS (broad band spectrum) and FBS (full band spectrum) which use multiple frequencies, some of which are lower and higher than those typically associated with VLF machines. Detector technology has come along way and it is still evolving.

The beach, in contrast to most inland sites, presents two conditions that can adversely affect your detector, namely salt and black sand (mineralization). When choosing a detector for the beach it is advisable to choose one that addresses these conditions specifically. PI and multi-frequency VLF machines are generally well suited for the beach. There are single frequency machines that do well too. It is important to remember that a detector’s capabilities are not simply a function of type and frequencies. The manner in which the signals are processed by the circuitry and software vary between manufacturers and some do this better than others. The best advice is to read as much as possible about the various detector models and take them for a test drive, if possible, before making a purchase. You would, of course, want to choose a machine that has a submersible coil or is fully submersible, unless you plan on only hunting the dry sand.

A PI machine is the deepest seeking type of detector made. It is immune from the effects of salt water and mineralization. The one drawback PI machines have is that they have no discrimination. All metals will generate a signal. Experienced PI users can sometimes determine whether a target is iron by listening for the unique tonal signature of iron, for instance, a double beep. If you use a PI machine you will not miss many targets, but you will dig a lot of trash.

VLF machines have discrimination and, depending on the model, decent depth. Discrimination gives you the ability to reject iron and other undesirable targets. Be careful that you do not use too much discrimination. Gold rings show up in the pull-tab range and if you discriminate pull-tabs you will find few gold rings. Discriminate only iron at first and adjust your discrimination settings as you become more familiar with the beach and its associated trash items. Some VLF machines have a salt mode toggle allowing them to be used on dry land and at the beach.

The shoreline can be a long way from your car on some beaches. A backpack, bucket or even a wagon can be used to carry some extras that make detecting the beach more enjoyable. Bring drinks and some food. You may want to bring a towel. Bug spray can be a life-saver during certain times of the year. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat can protect you from the elements. Bring your cell phone. You can always turn it off if you do not want to be disturbed, but it will be there if you need it. A waterproof container is great for keeping your wallet, keys and cell phone dry when venturing into the water. They can be found at most SCUBA stores. A camera is an excellent item to bring along to capture the scenery, your finds or your detecting buddies. Do not forget batteries for your detector, and bring some extras. There is nothing worse than getting to a hunting spot and realizing that you have forgotten something (like batteries) or that your machine is broken. Bringing along some backup equipment is always a good idea if you have it.

Any hunt can be ruined by bad weather. Check the forecasts a few days before you go and keep checking it until you leave. Have a backup plan if the weather intervenes. You may also want to check the tides and try to time your hunt for low-tide. That will give you a bit more wet sand to hunt and increase your chances.

Do not forget to dispose of all the trash you find, fill all your holes and, most importantly, have fun.

Happy Hunting!
Chris Burroughs (TBGO)

Author: Chris Burroughs (TBGO)
My name is Chris, although I go by The Beep Goes On (TBGO) when posting on the various metal detecting forums. I started detecting in 2002, mainly in Galveston. Life got a little hectic and I stopped detecting at the end of 2004. I took a couple of years off. I got a new DFX and started up again in February 2006. I decided to concentrate on local parks and, surprisingly, my finds increased dramatically. I do not think anyone had hunted the grass parks and sports fields in my area. Since then I have become a fairly avid detectorist and have really enjoyed getting out and hunting. I also enjoy participating in the growing online detecting community.


Jan 11 2007

Guest Post: Beach Basics

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Detecting on the beach can be one of the most pleasurable forms of detecting. Shuffling down the beach in the sun, swinging your detector is a great way to spend the day. The ease of target retrieval in the soft sand is an added bonus. Many people agree and there is a growing community of beach hunters. To become a successful beach hunter you can use a variety of strategies. Some of these strategies can be implemented immediately and some of them take time and observation. The most successful hunters will use all these strategies and generate their own insights as their experience grows.

The number of targets at any detecting site, including the beach, can be derived from a simple equation composed of four variables. These variables are the length of TIME the site has been in use, the NUMBER of people that visit the site, the level of physical ACTIVITY people engage in at the site and the environment, or GROUND COVER, that can hide objects that have been dropped. Another variable to consider is the TYPE of people frequenting the site.

Time and site population are a consideration, but they can be deceiving. There have been many great finds at sites that are not very old. There can also be sites that appear to be unused today but were heavily used in the past. A little research can pay big dividends in this regard. For modern beaches presently in use the seasons also play a part. More people visit the beach in the summer.

Activity refers to the type of play people engage in at the site. Playing volleyball, frolicking in the waves, playing catch and throwing a Frisbee would all be considered activities that result in more valuables being lost.

The beach has three kinds of ground cover. There is dry sand, wet sand and water. Water is the best ground cover. Water prevents a visual search and the movement of the water can displace dropped objects. The sand is almost as good since objects are quickly swallowed up.

In general, all types of people use the beach. They do, however, congregate by age group for certain activities. The younger folks are usually more apt to wear valuables and be more active. Some of the older folks will be more cautious and leave their valuables in the car or hotel.

When you are at the beach, take a look around. You may see kids on the play sets with mom nearby, teenagers playing volleyball, a swath of sunbathers on towels and blankets, families playing in the wet sand and people playing in the water. Consider the variables presented above and apply them to what you see. It is evident that all these beach areas have potential.

It is important to understand that the beach is always changing. Waves, currents, storms, wind and rain can dramatically change beach geography. Buried objects behave predictably in this environment. Most metal objects are denser than the surrounding sand and will bury themselves deeper and deeper over time. The beach actually vibrates due to the pounding surf which accelerates this process. Objects will continue to sink until they come to rest upon a denser surface. This could be a layer of gravel or clay. The point here is that you want to look for areas of the beach that have had a lot of sand removed. If you see gravel or clay, or deep cuts in the sand, then you would want to hunt those areas. Objects also migrate along the beach. A current washing along a beach will deposit objects of similar density in the same place. This will result in a line of objects varying from lightest to heaviest along the beach. If you pay attention to the trash items deposited by the current and look for the heavier objects there is a good chance valuable items will be in the same place.

The beach is subject to other phenomenon, namely tides and wind. During low tide, areas that were deep water are now shallow and shallow water is now wet sand. This allows you to get farther out and hunt areas that are difficult to hunt at any other time. There are a few times a year that the tides are very low. They are called minus tides. If you can time your trip for one of these tides you will find that you can venture out much farther than at any other time of the year. Wind can lower the water level if it is blowing out to sea. If you can hit the beach during a minus tide with the wind blowing out to sea, do not miss the chance to do so.

Once you have analyzed the beach variables and geography it is time to choose the type of hunting you would like to do, or the type you think would be the most productive. These include hunting the deep water, shallow water, wet sand or dry sand.

Hunting the deep water requires a submersible detector and can be physically challenging. Wave action can make deep water hunting very difficult. If your beach is not too rough, hunting the deep water can be very rewarding. Cool water tends to shrink fingers and people can lose rings without even knowing it. Diving under the water can cause necklaces to slip over the head, or they can break off in the surf.

Shallow water requires, at least, a submersible coil. It is much easier than hunting deep water and many finds can be had. A lot of people will get into the shallows and sit in the water or splash around. Since this is the place where people are initially affected by the cold water many items are lost here.

The wet sand is a great area to hunt. Families play in this area and people going into or coming out of the water can lose items. A mother building a castle in the wet sand with her child can lose a ring or break a bracelet while digging in the sand. It is also where people walk or run along the beach. There is a lot of activity in this area and people tend to congregate where the wet sand meets the shallow water.

The dry sand has many potentially good areas. One of them is the line along the beach where people lay their towels and blankets. When people leave and shake out their towel they may scatter items they accidentally left on their towel. They may get up to run to the water and the slippery suntan lotion will cause rings to slip off their fingers. It is also a place where people spend a lot of time, increasing the likelihood of losing items. The rest of the dry sand area can be compared to an inland park. The volleyball courts and play sets can generate finds. The paths that people walk to and from their cars are another good area. Any route where people are forced through a narrow path is a place you would want to hunt.

One other item to consider, at least on some beaches, is competition. If a lot of detectorists hunt the beach in your area then you may have to time your hunts to get the fresh drops. The most obvious way to do this is to get to the beach as the crowds are leaving and hunt into the evening. Luckily, most beaches are very large and there is plenty of ground for everyone. A lot of fellow detectorists on the beach can be a good thing. Get to know them, share stories of your finds and you will discover that you may have a new detecting partner, or a new site to hunt that they have shared with you.

Do not forget to dispose of all the trash you find, fill all your holes and, most importantly, have fun.

Happy Hunting!
The Beep Goes On

Author: Chris Burroughs (TBGO)
My name is Chris, although I go by The Beep Goes On (TBGO) when posting on the various metal detecting forums. I started detecting in 2002, mainly in Galveston. Life got a little hectic and I stopped detecting at the end of 2004. I took a couple of years off. I got a new DFX and started up again in February 2006. I decided to concentrate on local parks and, surprisingly, my finds increased dramatically. I do not think anyone had hunted the grass parks and sports fields in my area. Since then I have become a fairly avid detectorist and have really enjoyed getting out and hunting. I also enjoy participating in the growing online detecting community.

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