Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What's a Sea-Bean?

Sea-beans on the windward shore of Big Sand Cay
Sea-beans (also known as drift seeds) are seeds and fruits that are carried to the ocean, often by freshwater streams and rivers, then drift with the ocean currents and wash ashore.

 Some "sea-beans" are technically fruits that contain seeds. Sea-beans come from trees and vines that grow along tropical shores and rain forests all over the world. The seeds or fruits fall from their parent plant into waterways, such as the Amazon River, then drift through inlets to reach the ocean. They travel with ocean currents until they wash up on a beach somewhere, perhaps thousands of miles from their origin.

My collection of sea-beans from Big Sand Cay

Sea-beans are quite hard and buoyant, which helps them survive their long-distance voyage.

There are several types of sea-beans.  The sea-bean we like to find the most is the seaheart, pictured in the photo above on the far left. The seahearts are not easy to find so they are a real treasure.  Next, left to right, as best I can identify, are the starnut, two "hamburger beans" (also unusual),  two laurelwoods, a crabwood, and a sea coconut (golfball).

Cruising sailors like to collect sea-beans. LA and I have spent hours on the windward sides of deserted beaches in search of sea-beans.  Sailors make things like necklaces, key lanyards, and paint designs on them.  Above is a decorative hanging piece LA made for me. LA also made a special keyring using a beloved seaheart given to us in the Bahamas by fellow cruiser Deana Jones in 2011. It was the first sea-bean we had ever received.
The front view of Deana's Lucky Seaheart
The seaheart supposedly inspired Columbus to find new land in the west. The Gulf Stream carried seahearts to European beaches, where they were commonly made into snuff boxes by polishing, cutting them in half, and attaching little hinges. The seaheart is often referred to as a Lucky Bean. Seeds have long been worn as good luck charms. For hundreds of years they have been seen as symbols of good luck, longevity, endurance, and fertility  Here is our lucky seaheart... painted especially for us by our Texas friend Deana Jones from s/v Storyville.
Back view of Deana's Lucky Seaheart

We have about 20 sea-beans that we have collected in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.   I found a sea-bean website that I referenced to write this story.  I learned a lot of things about sea-beans. 

One thing I wanted to know was how to polish sea-beans.  You will need dry sandpaper with varying degrees of "coarseness" and "smoothness." Grit numbers 120, 180, 220, 400, 600 and 1500 are suggested. Cut the large sheets into smaller, easy-to-handle ones. Begin polishing with the coarse grits, progressively using finer and finer grits until a high, polished sheen is developed. Try to select beans free from deep pits, "dents" or other irregularities! The bean can be buffed with the "back" of the 1500 grit sandpaper and then apply light coat of furniture wax.  Each bean can take up to five or more hours of sanding, polishing and buffing. So, it remains to be seen how many beans will actually get polished on Genesis!

LuLu checking out my collection of sea-beans from Big Sand Cay
To learn more about sea-beans, click here:

1 comment:

Troy and Deana Jones said...

Thanks for the mention Susan. I thought that sea bean looked familiar!