Beach Metal Detecting: Hunting the Treasure Coast of Florida
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Vero Beach or Bust
One item on the bucket list was someday to metal detect the Treasure Coast on the Atlantic Coast between Palm Beach on the south and Sebastion on the north. Off the coast, a number of Spanish Galleons went down in various hurricanes especially that of 1715. Occasionally, coins and artifacts still wash up on the beach and are found by detectorists on the beaches. Checking out what was available through our timeshare exchange, we found the Ocean Beach Resort in Vero Beach and booked it during Spring Break.
We flew into Orlando on Saturday, March 14, and set the GPS for Vero. Once in Vero, we let the GPS get us to the Ocean Reef, a small resort surrounded by towering fancy condos. We were a little early checking in so we headed out to grab a bite to eat. We found that Vero Beach has a number of good restaurants on both sides of the intercoastal waterway. If your looking for chain places like Chili's, Outback, and places like that, they are on the west side before you cross the intercoastal bridge. After crossing, all the restaurants are one-of-a-kind. We had lunch at Bobby's which is at the resort. we would eat there three or four times. The food is tasty and the service were very good with cheerful wait staff and an extensive menu.
After eating, we headed up the coast to Sebastion and the McLarty Museum where we were able to view many of the artifacts and coins that have been recovered over the years. The museum also had a scrapbook about finds made in the area. We spoke with the ranger there who was very helpful on the history and the popular hunting areas along the coast. Some of the things to look for, according to the ranger, included beach glass and beach porcelain specifically with the blue Chinese design. Also he said to watch for anything green, Seems that in March the year before, a woman was walking the beach with her husband and saw a large piece of green beach glass. When she picked it up, she realized she was holding a large emerald crystal that had washed up from the offshore wrecks. This certainly was enough to fire us up.
When we got back to the condo, we were able to check in. The condo was a one bedroom and very small but comfortable and the sliding glass patio door was less than 50 yards from the water. We slept with the door open and the screen closed so that we could hear the waves. One thing we had to do, however, was keep the drapes closed at night if we had any lights on. The lights disturb the turtles that come onto the beach to lay their eggs. Every morning we saw fresh turtle tracks and the beach turtle patrol checking to see if there were eggs in the nests. If so, the area was cordoned off with stakes and orange ribbon to keep anyone from disturbing them.
Treasure Hunting Time
Once settled, we headed out to the beach, my wife with her shell bag, and me with my detector. A few odds and ends turned up, enough to keep it interesting, but no silver reales or gold dubloons. We made plans the next day to meet my other daughter and her family and plan our week.
The next morning we set out for another whack at the beach. This is when we saw our first turtle tracks. We were careful not to disturb any of the nests. Again we pulled up odds and ends, a childs hot wheel car, a little girls butterfly necklace on a string, coins and the usual fishing sinkers. We were about halfway through our walk when my detector gave a high pitched tone. This usually means either a large target, a quarter, or silver. We dug down and placed shovels of sand to the side until the signal was no longer in the hole. Checking the pile we located the target and puller it from the sand. Our first ring with three large stones! It turned out to be sterling with three CZs but we were still thrilled. One word of warning if I have you thinking you want to do this. You cannot detect in the water beyond the low tide line. The Mel Fisher group owns salvage rights to anything beyond that point!
When we returned to the condo, all of our new neighbors wanted to know what we had found. We showed off the loot to the ooo's and ahhh's of the crowd. I must say, as an aside, of all the condos we have traded for, the people here were the friendliest. Every morning and evening when we went out, we were greeted with waves and smiles. The beaches were not overly crowded and the water was warm.
We decided to pack up and explore other areas of the beach further north. There are a number of parks to stop and explore the beaches between Vero Beach and Sebastion. Checking out one fairly close to Sebastion, we began looking for all those emeralds that had to be there. We came away with a fair amount of beach glass, a piece of porcelain and some great shells. The other thing that the detector kept coming up with was pieces of melted metal that looked like aluminum but were much too hard. After making our rounds on the beach, we went back to the museum to show the ranger the porcelain (I wish I remembered his name. He was very nice and helpful) . Nope. This was modern porcelain probably from a recent hurricane. Darn! Then I showed him the melted metal. This is evidently a common find by detectorists and are bits of titanium from the space program. They may be parts of some launches gone wrong or parts off of the solid rocket boosters.
We headed back to meet the kids for dinner in Vero. This time we went to a Chinese buffet. Next time I'll pass on that one. Plans were made to take the daughter for surfing lessons the next day. We would be meeting the instructor at 7:00 the next morning and my daughter is NOT a morning person. That being said, she was up and ready to go on time. We packed up the detector, the shell bag, and the daughter and off we went. She had a ball and did pretty well with a couple of short rides standing up. She's ready for her next lesson next spring break. She also had a memorable encounter when a sea turtle popped up next to them and watched for a while.
She was one tired girl when we headed back to the condo. The other side effect----surfers knees. This is caused by the many encounters with the surfboard.
Detecting Beach Finds
A day of treasure hunting
The next day was mine. No early morning appointments except with the beach. At sunrise, we headed up the beach about a mile to the boardwalk and new territory. We were right into the odds and ends and it wasn;t but about half an hour when the high pitch sounded again. This time the item showed itself in the first shovel of sand. Another large silver ring with CZs. i have never done this well at the beach. Our target was to beat our previous record------of $1.38 in a week and a silver (probably plate) necklace. We were way beyond that!
After meeting the kids for lunch at an excellent little pizza place by the condo, we all headed for another visit to the museum and a shot at another part of the beach. The kids enjoyed the museum and we were all fired up to find some treasure. We hit the beach with my daughter's clan going north and my wife and I headed south toward the Disney Vero Beach resort. Targets hear were pretty sparse until we got close to the resort. A coin or two popped up and then, right in front of the resort beach entrance at the water's edge, another high pitched tone. Out came my third ring, a silver wedding band, or so we thought. Once we washed it off, we checked to see if it was engraved. It was, but unfortunately not with a name. The engraving identified this ring as a graduation ring for the class of 2009. Shortly after that, up came a Honduran coin. We needed to leave but we definitely wanted to come back to this area. We researched and found that we were at Wabasso beach, one of the most prolific areas for shipwreck coins. Oh Yeah, we'll be back.
The rest of the day was spent on the beach enjoying the surf and the kids playing in the water. Again the detector turned up odds and ends. We found a small Phillipino coin in front of the condo. Moving south I got an average sounding signal. Again we dug until the signal was out of the hole. I grabbed handfuls of sand and waved them over the coil until the signal was in my hand. Opening it up, I sucked in a deep breath. There, in my hand, was a small silver reale, my first shipwreck coin! Wait a minute. This didn't seem right. On closer examination I realized that this was one of those fake little reales they sell in the souvenir stores! Someone pulled a fast one on me!
We would make plans the next day to go deep sea fishing. This would mark another thing off the bucket list.
Deep Sea Fishing
Early the next morning we were headed south to Stuart to do some deep sea fishing. Being the dad, I got to spring for it, of course. As we walked to the boat we could see little red crabs scurrying between the rocks by the dock. We boarded the boat and took the hour long ride out to the fishing area. I helped get everybody baited and down we went. Nothing for me. Other people on the boat started to get some bites. We saw a mackeral come in and a beautiful mahi-mahi. Several people, including my daughter caught some smaller sea bass and other reef fish. These we tossed back. Me, I got skunked-----and I paid for it! It seems that we spent more time moving than fishing. The fishing wasn't exactly hot and heavy. One thing we did see, that was amazing, was a tiny newborn sea turtle swimming along in the rough sea.
It was still fun. A parent always likes to see his kids have fun so it was well worth it. As we headed back to port, we watched the pelicans setting themselves up on every post sticking out of the water. It was a good day. Next time I'll know where to stand on the boat to get the better fishing.
On our last full day, we were once again up early to get out on the beach. I wanted one more crack at Wabasso. We headed down and pulled up to the parking area. The entrance was chained closed. The sign said "Park opens at 8 a.m." It was now 6:30. My daughter wanted us to go back to the museum to get a gift for her partner but the museum wasn't open yet either. We headed back to Vero and had breakfast in a little restaurant where we could watch the ocean.
After breakfast, we headed back to the museum to pick up the gift. When we showed up, we were greeted by the ranger. "I'm glad you came in. You gotta see this!" he said. There was another young man and his wife or girlfriend standing there. The man held out his hand with a crumpled paper towel in it. I took it from him and immediately felt the weight. Unwrapping the item, I was holding a huge 8 reale silver coin, half an inch thick and as big as my palm. A barnacle from years in the ocean was still attached. What a beauty! This coin was worth between one and two THOUSAND dollars. I asked him where he found it.
"This morning we went to WABASSO BEACH and waited by the gate until it opened. I found it on the beach there." (gnashing of teeth). We thanked him, bought the gift and headed for Wabasso. The beach would not give up a second coin, however. Still, it was exciting and something I am not soon to forget. I WILL RETURN! That evening we had a wonderful group dinner at a restaurant on the intercoastal waterway called Manatees. I highly recommend this restaurant for the fun, setting, and food.
The next morning, after getting together one last time for breakfast, we were on our way back home. We had lots of fun and memories. If you're thinking about a quiet beach, this is ideal. They don't have the jet skis and the parasailing. The Vero Beach city council decided to leave that to Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. This is a quiet beautiful little community.
Enjoy your Treasured Pasts