"I did not want to live out my life in the strenuous effort to hold a ghost world together. It was plain as the stars that time herself moved in grand tidal sweeps rather than the tick-tocks we suffocate within, and that I must reshape myself to fully inhabit the earth rather than dawdle in the sump of my foibles." — Jim Harrison (Julip)

My poor shell bucket has been empty.  Shelling on the SWFL coast has been sort of flat the last few months. Good shelling requires a combination of things.  Tides, winds, moon phase all play a part. The biggest factor is location, location, location.  Sanibel is the shelling epicenter on the west coast of Florida with the best seismic shelling waves extending to Cayo Costa on the north and  south to Bonita Beach, Naples, & Marco Island. The really sweet shelling spots can only be reached by boat.  That's why I practically jumped for joy when shelling guide Capt. Brian Holaway of Captiva/Sanibel Island  invited me out for a shelling excursion next week. 
Heading out in the month of May (his favorite month).  Capt. Brian likes the warmer temps & the clearer waters.He says "the water seems more alive with stingrays & tarpons cruising by, the sea grass is floating on the surface of the water, & the days are longer." (Credit: Capt. Brian Holaway)
Cayo Costa Island is only accessed by boat (Credit:Capt. Brian Holaway)
Lightning whelk on the flats (Credit: Capt. Brian Holaway)

What boat ride is not complete without a dolphin visit? (Credit: Capt. Brian Holaway)

I started following Capt. Brian's blog because of his stunning photography. His passion for the water less traveled translates through the lens of his camera showing us coastal wildlife, Florida native plants, & the outer islands of SWFL in all it's stunning beauty.   Capt. Brian's Observations on the Water is not only a journal of his shelling guide trips but also his travels which range from camping in the Everglades to exploring in Panama.

 Capt. Brian has lived on Captiva Island since 1994.  His fascination with the history of ancient Caribbean cultures has  lead him to study Botany, Archeology,  & Tropical ecology. He has even traveled to the Amazon to study the relationship between people & plants.  As a coastal Master Naturalist through the University of Florida, Capt. Brian can tie up the pieces of what you see, what you find, & where it came from all  together for you.  Actually, the mystery of where all the shells have gone has been solved - they are all on Capt Brian's back porch. So, if I come up empty handed on our trip - I know where I'm headed next.
Capt. Brian's private collection displayed on his back porch (Credit: Capt. Brian Holaway)


  1. Lucky lady!! We have a shelling trip booked with Capt Brian in October. Can't wait! Don't you just love his back porch!??

  2. Oh you lucky woman! I am Sanibel-wishing lately and this just adds to the yearning. :)

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  4. I know you'll have a wonderful time with Capt. Brian. Can't wait to see what you find. Love the lightening whelk photo! He takes beautiful pictures.

  5. Kaybe...thinking of coming your way tomorrow for some shark teeth hunting....which beach do you recommend? Checking out your maps on your site!!

  6. Hi Shelllady! I like Blind Pass which is 2 miles north of Englewood Beach right now. Once you get in the parking lot and face the beach - the road hooks up to the right. I walk across the road & step over the rail fence by the trash cans. Head north up the beach/right for about 50 yards or so. The tide is high until late afternoon so that isn't the best time but there are still lots to be found. I can't find an email for you soiIf you'll email me - I'll get back with you. I'd love to show you guys the ropes. Antkaybe@gmail.com

  7. Wow! Capt. Brian has some big shells on his back porch! I thought we were lucky in finding one of the big conchs, but he has several. I bet he is a great tour guide, too! I hope your shell bucket gets full soon!

  8. Wow wow wow, what a beautiful island! Love that sunset with the pastel pink sky. Ohhhh I need vacation from our drought stricken Texas. xxooxx

  9. I know I already told you this on the phone, but I am SO jealous! Looks like the Captain has a remarkable collection and I'd love to pick his brain on a few things. Can't wait to read all about your excursion!

    Love ya girl

  10. Whoa, what a counter filled with beautiful finds...and what a wonderful opportunity...heading out with the Captain! I'll stay tuned for the report!
    Happy Weekend!


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