By Maddy Vitale
Claire Nestor, 7, of Lock Haven, Pa., had her mind set on one specific sea treasure when she and her 5-year-old brother, Michael, set out to find marine life and shells along the water’s edge in Townsends Inlet in Sea Isle City on Thursday morning.
“I want to find a conch shell,” she said with authority and a slight smile.
Michael was supportive of his big sister’s mission. He was just as interested in finding shells and crabs.
The siblings were two of about 80 children who joined with their families to scour the beaches in search of tiny treasures and learn about marine life, the ocean and the dunes from tour guides with the Sea Isle Beachcombing Program.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, tour guides take children and adults on an educational journey along the inlet and the beach throughout the summer.
Claire didn’t find her coveted conch shell. But she filled her bucket with a whole lot of shiny, colorful shells.
Michael was happy with the shell of a crab, along with a bunch of shells.
Abby Powell, co-chair of the beachcombing program, said Tuesday’s group was more than 100 children and their families.
“We are so excited to get the summer beachcombing program started,” she said. “We wait all year long for this and we look forward to having one of our best summers ever.”
Tour guide Margie Quinlan explained to her group that there are no two oysters alike, that razor shells were said to be used by Indians to shave and that star fish can grow back their legs.
Quinlan also described what each marine animal was on a blanket that was spread out on the sand.
Then she held up a model of a diamondback terrapin. She explained how it is important that a terrapin continues in the direction they are going if someone finds them.
“If you pick one up you must hold up your fingers and just use these two fingers because they have claws,” Quinlan carefully demonstrated.
When Quinlan was done with her lesson, the children ran, with buckets in hand, and sand sifters to make some fun finds.
Jen Napier, of Philadelphia, and her children, Jacob, 4, and Benjamin, 10, were excited to go to their first beachcombing day.
Napier’s parents live in Sea Isle. When she heard about the program, she thought it would be something the kids might enjoy.
That they did.
In fact, although Claire didn’t find a conch shell, there was one in sight. Benjamin and Alexandra Fleming, 7, of Manville, N.J., spotted a large one and pulled it from the water.
They proudly displayed their find for the parents who clicked their cellphone pictures.
This summer is the 32nd year that Sea Isle has held the beachcombing tours.
Sarah Nestor, Claire and Michael’s mother, is 38 years old. She recalled going on the same tours in Sea Isle when she and her parents vacationed in the resort 30 years ago.
Now, she is certain, after seeing how much the kids loved it, that it would become their family tradition as well.
“I was a little girl and it was always interesting,” Sarah Nestor said. “You learn so much – the children and the adults do. It is definitely something we will do every year.”
For more information, about Sea Isle City’s beachcombing tours, go to visitsicnj.com.