For many years, these castles were your typical pedestrian undertakings, made with the plastic pail and shovel combo purchased in the nearest beach shack. That all changed in 1982 when Dad gave me Castles in the Sand for my birthday. This book quickly elevated our game and Dad in particular embraced the new techniques with great gusto. Castle construction became a centerpiece of our beach activities.
Let me sum up the important bits of this out-of-print book for those of you who don't want to track it down.
- Timing: start construction at the time when the tide is at its lowest. That will give you plenty of time for building, sitting back and admiring your work, and then watching the advancing tide take it all away. We would get a local paper with a tide chart the first day of vacation and plan which days would be castle days.
- The Sand Pile: This is the most important part. You need to build a giant pile of tightly packed sand...the bigger and more compact the better. Then, you cut away everything that doesn't look like your sandcastle, just like Michaelangelo! The real secret to building all of these is that they are almost entirely created by cutting sand away as opposed to adding/building up sand.
- The Tools: forget about the crappy roadside pails and shovels, although the pail might still be somewhat useful. Better to use a larger bucket or a small wastepaper basket instead, though. A real honest to god shovel is essential for building the sand pile, and beyond that we found the most useful tools to be a cement trowel, various sized spatulas, metal or wood rulers and yardsticks, a collander, and measuring spoons. Experiment with whatever you have handy. No need to buy any specialized sandcastle tools.
That's all you really need to build the castles pictured here. Grab your Dad and head for the beach!