Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sand Castle Building 101: The Drip Castle

During our stay at Panama City Beach, Son-in-Law and I managed to create two sand castles. The first was sort of a test model, to work out our technique. The second was much more elaborate, complete with moat, outer wall, and multiple turrets. We were using the drip castle technique, rather than the artsy sand sculpture method. Our royal sand abodes came out more Disney-esque instead of Windsor-esque.

Now, I've always considered the drip method sort of ghetto. It doesn't take much skill - just a steady hand, a little patience, and the ability to endure sand and salt water in - ahem - uncomfortable places. It's perfect for those of us who are sculpturally-challenged.

If you're heading to the beach any time soon and want to leave (however briefly) your architectural mark near the surf, here's a Drip Castles For Dummies (though you are certainly no dummy):

  1. Choose your property. Take stock of current tides. It's no good staking out something in the deep soft sand or too close to the water. There's a sweet spot near the water where the sand is nice and damp, but not too drippy. You'll know it when you see it.
  2. Round? Square? Other? Decide the basic shape of your castle. Our first one was round; the second, square. Hexagon works, too.
  3. Scoop out your moat. A moat helps as waves encroach on your turf (is sand turf?) and protects your creation until high tide.
  4. Do you want a battlement wall around your castle? If so, start building up a wall, packing the sand as you build (you'll cover it with drips later). Be sure to leave a nice opening on one side so that you can work on the main building.
  5. Start building up your castle with packed sand. We use a bucket to load in the sand. Give it the shape you want.
  6. Now for the drip part. If you're close enough to the water, you only have to dig down a little way to hit the water you can use to help with the dripping. If not, fill a bucket about 3/4 full with water, then add sand. Yeah, you'll have to make lots of water-totin' trips.
  7. Grab a handful of wet sand from your bucket and let it drip over the packed sand. Drip it over the whole thing. Then start creating towers and turrets. The sand has to be really wet to build up delicate spires. It's easy-peasy, once you get the hang of it.
  8. If you've built a wall around your castle, cover it with drips, too. And add shells or seaweed to decorate.
That's all there is to it. People were really impressed with the results, and we were pleased with our morning's work. And remember, you'll always knock one tower down as you create another, and/or destroy a wing when you step wrong or spill a bucket of water. But that's the fun. Creating. Re-creating.

A sand castle is a magical thing, indeed. 


Anonymous said...

OK, just a couple of thoughts about your Sand Castle 101. Brother David (looking down from the great sand castle in the sky) and I had built sand castles from St. Augustine to La Jolla and we definitely considered the drip method superior.
He would be SO PROUD!! Not ghetto in the least. More Cinderella than Warwick.
I do think you over-thought the process; however. For those who do not know "Shorty" personally she has always been a lot like Susie in the Verizon commercial. She probably has both a slide AND monkey bars in her office! That's out girl!!!

MaryB said...

Yes, I do tend to be a bit AR. However, I was so surprised by the number of folks who stopped by while we were dripping who had never seen the technique. I thought it was pretty common, but evidently not. Yes, more Cinderella than Warwick. (And yes, monkey bars and a slide, please.)

Adelle Gabrielson said...

Hey - great post! I was in the process of writing a memoir about beaching with my family as a kid and our "drip sand" castles just popped into my head. I googled it to see if I could find an image...and there you were. May I use your photos and link to this post? You can see where I blog at, under "ready..GO!...get set..."

Liz said...

I am impressed! I've been building sand castles all my life - until my foray into mermaids - and I've never tried the drip technique. Next time ...

MaryB said...

Liz, I'll bet your castles are more upmarket than mine!

Donna Parsley said...

Panama City Beach is one of the greatest beaches in Mexico, PJ, and it is the best place for a bit of family bonding with, YEAH, SAND CASTLE BUILDING!!

Anonymous said...

you have got to do this but take food color with you or tempera paints for the most awesome drip greandkids are 3 7 9 and they will do this for hrs..then decorate with shells

MaryB said...

What a cool idea! So do you build the drip castle, then drizzle paint/color over it, or do you mix the food color or paint into the sand/water as you're building?