“By George... It’s Luck!”
By: Lance W. Comfort
As I write this, I’m getting ready to head down to Nassau in the Bahamas with my brother, Rick, thanks to an invitation from George Streeter of Streeter Electronics in Keene, New Hampshire, for a week of water detecting in search of gold and silver jewelry.
George and I have bantered back and forth about the term luck. He believes in it, while I like to think that it has little to do with success. I have always found that the right equipment, experience, research, and skill account for most detecting success, and the luck factor is only a small part. This trip should shed some light on which of us was more accurate about this matter.
* * *
As most people will tell you, my experience and love is with relic hunting, so this week I would be mostly out of my realm of expertise. I planned to use a new machine, a Minelab Excalibur II, on which I’d only had a couple of days’ practice. I would be in an unfamiliar setting of water, and with a number of experienced and knowledgeable water detectorists. If I was right about the luck factor, then the others should do much better than I. On the other hand, should I be as or more successful than the others, I would have to bow to George’s theory of luck. We’d just have to wait and see.
It’s now a few days later. Having just completed our fall Brothers & Others Hunt in Vermont, Rick and I hurried on to the Bahamas to join George, Phil Silverstein, Michael Beach, and Peter Lopipero for a week of beach detecting. It was a cool morning as we left Manchester, New Hampshire for Nassau, and a warm balmy day as we arrived.
We joined up with George, picked up a rental van, and drove to what would be our home base for the next week. After meeting the others, we all headed out for a short afternoon of detecting at one of the local beaches.
Coins seemed to be everywhere! Within the first five minutes I got a solid signal and up popped a man’s 14K gold band. Not long after that another good hit revealed a large 1 oz. silver round. I have no idea what that was doing there, but I was happy to see it.
Everyone was coming up with coins and the occasional ring, and I was starting to think that there was not much to this. The water was nice and calm, and we were detecting in the shallows. I could easily see to the bottom when I got a signal, and pinpointing was not difficult at all. However, I would shortly find out that this was not going to be the norm for our detecting.
Within the next hour I found a nice silver ring with stones in it and another gold ring with two hearts on it. That was three rings and a silver round in only the first three hours of detecting. Perhaps George was going to be right, because I seemed to have found even more than the others on the first day. Little did I realize that I would not find another piece of gold during the rest of the week.
On the way home we stopped at a supermarket and picked up our rations for the week. Mike had taken on the task of being our cook, and Peter assisted. They both did a great job during our stay.
On our second day we headed to a beach in front of one of the larger hotels. Detecting here was definitely not as easy as on the first day. We were now in chest-deep water and could no longer see our feet, and I was having a difficult time scooping in the correct location. George was using a mask & snorkel to visually locate the signal sites. I had left mine behind, but definitely decided that I would bring it along the next day.
The more experienced water hunters— George, Peter, Mike and Phil— all made nice finds, while Rick and I continued to struggle. That’s when Phil (Mr. Goldmaster) gave me a little help.
“First, center your signal. Place your left foot behind your coil, then move your coil away and dig your scoop into the sand directly in front of your foot.”
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Try it with 3-4' swells when you’re up to your chest in water! It certainly takes practice to become proficient at it.
After a little while we noticed a police officer on the shore signaling for us to come in. Apparently someone from the hotel had called and reported us. We spoke with him and told him that it was legal to detect here. He was not aware of what the law was, however, and despite all of George’s efforts he requested that we stop. If we wanted to, we could go and talk with the police chief in town.
We headed to the local police station, where George had a nice talk with the chief. He, too, was unaware of the law, but did not seem to think that it should be a problem. George told him that the next day he would bring him a letter from the prime minister, affirming the legality of detecting in the Bahamas. Meanwhile, we decided to call it a day and headed home for a nice dinner.
That evening, George was on the computer gathering information regarding the legality of detecting in the Bahamas. Apparently not many people detect in Nassau, so the police are not familiar with the laws, which state that you are allowed to detect on any public beach and on private beaches up to the high-tide mark.
The next day, letter in hand, George again had a nice visit with the police chief, and we were soon on our way to another site. This was “Jaws Beach,” where some of the movie sequel to Jaws was filmed. Apparently they did not have to fake all the sharks scenes, since some are seen there frequently. We were advised not to wander too far out, but to stay in the more shallow water. (I did not have to be convinced!)
The detecting here was a bit different. The bottom was all coral, covered with a small amount of sand. You could not use a sand scoop here, but had to use a mask & snorkel and fan the sand from the location. We would hit this location a couple of times during the week, and it was one of my favorites. There was real beauty in watching the colorful fish while listening for finds at the same time. The hard part was to remember to keep in mind where you were and not go out too far or stray away from the others. I was able to find a couple of silver rings at this location, including a World War II Navy ring missing its stone.
Again, the more experienced detectorists made the better finds. Peter, Phil, and Mike all came away with some gold for the day.
The next day we were off early, before light, to hit a beach in front of yet another large hotel. We were just about to enter the water when Phil spied a shark not far offshore. This put a halt to our early start, and we waited on the beach until we were sure he was gone. The water was crystal clear and full of schools of fish. No wonder the shark had been in this area. He was looking for a nice sushi breakfast.
Once again fortune seemed to favor those with experience; however, Rick did find a nice silver & turquoise ring. I only found some coins, but George came up with a gold ring. Mike found a gold ring with diamonds, as did Phil, while Peter came up with a gold band.
That evening we went to a local restaurant to try some of the local food. We were tired after a full day in the water, and the food tasted fantastic and was greatly appreciated. After dinner Peter took us over to see some of the large resorts on Paradise Island, where the rich go to play. Some of the yachts were so large that they had their own helicopter pads on them.
In the morning we decided to go back to one of the beaches where we had made a number of finds earlier. Mike again found a nice ring, and Phil and Peter both found a couple, including some with diamonds. George scooped up a platinum pendant with diamonds to round out the finds.
On our last day of detecting, we voted on the site we would hit. Based on the finds we’d made, the beach where we’d been the day before was going to be the site again. The winds had come up, as well as the waves, and both made detecting more difficult. After a few hours of being beaten up in the deeper water, I decided to hit the beach next to the hotel where the detecting was easier, and where I had found my two gold rings the first day. Peter and Phil stayed at the hotel, and both came home with more gold rings. I found a couple of pieces of costume jewelry and a lot more coins.
By the end of the week a number of things had become apparent to me. First, my scoop did not have a long enough handle for this type of detecting. It was made for beach hunting, not water. Second, this type of detecting takes experience, and you need to put your time in before you can keep up with the big dogs. Third, it is important to carry documentation as to the regulations and laws regarding detecting in a foreign country. Don’t count on the police knowing the regulations.
Finally, the most important thing I will take away from this adventure is that I believe both George and I are correct. I certainly had been lucky on the first day of the hunt— There George, I said it!— but it also became very apparent that those with experience have more luck than those without it.
So, I guess, “By George... It is luck!”