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A Princess Builds Her Own Castle… Out of Sand

Last weekend I tried my annual attempt to master the sandcastle.

See, the sandcastle is a work of art -- one that can only be achieved through years of practice and packing sand correctly in oddly shaped buckets.

I arrived at the 37th Ave. entrance off 3rd St. in Ponte Vedra, and employing a child size shovel, I began to scoop out my land.

I don’t know about you, but I have dreams of a large castle with a gleaming crystal moat.

I want a drawbridge and high, protective walls. The tower I live and sleep in must be the tallest tower of them all.

Then, of course, I realize the detailing of my dreams must be produced using sand and must be scaled to a manageable size. Still, I continue to replicate my dreams in the grit of the sand.

After flattening and digging out my moat, I begin to plan the layout of my castle. I wanted a wall going around the entire six-foot perimeter. I wanted a main tower, serving as the largest of the kingdom.

I needed four smaller towers to embody the largest tower and walls connecting the four. Necessities remaining included a drawbridge and guards.

Assuming the guards would be slightly more difficult to come by, I forgot that notion and tried to work out a way to create an actual movable bridge out of sand.

However, before the bridge could be put in place, I began with the most central aspect of the castle—the large tower. I grabbed buckets and found the shoreline.

Breaking ground for my masterpiece where the waves hit the beach before ebbing back into the ocean, my selected location became problematic for several reasons. I thought this spot would help with my dreams of a moat; however the constant water filling the moat turned out to wash away the banks entirely.

Despite this, I filled a blue sandcastle mold-bucket with sand, the slightly moist kind that would add substance and not stick to the bucket.

Tipping it over, I pressed on the top of the bucket to get any sand out of the little corners and details. I slid the bucket slowly over the mold, trying not to make any sudden movements that would ruin the mold.

Successful with the centerpiece, I moved on to the four surrounding towers. Using a smaller mold, I created three perfect ones. The fourth did not turn out so well because the sand failed to extract from the mold in good condition.

Salvaging what I could from the disastrous tower, I began work on the walls. These molds were the easiest to use and I repeated the process until I had surrounded my castle.

At this point, my moat had become flooded and had begun to sink some of my land. I quickly tried to create a drawbridge so I could be finished with my castle and move-on in my beach day.

The drawbridge evolved into an epic tunnel, made of compacted sand and hung over my moat, connected the front door (made of a shell) and the rest of my kingdom-land (the ocean).

Satisfied by my creation, I scurried back to retrieve the camera before the elements of tide and people ruined my castle.

In the process of finding my camera and batteries, I came back to  find that my castle to become a mound of ruined sand.

Footprints belonging to small children covered what remained of my empire while the rest of it had washed away.

I left the beach dejected but had a glimmer of hope. Living in Jacksonville provides me with miles of beaches to rehash the perfect sandcastle and work to make it come true!

If you haven't yet, get out to the beach yourself and play around in the sand like a little kid again.  It's good, not so clean fun.

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Mary Elizabeth Robertson is a journalism student spending her summer on the First Coast. She'll be interning for the Jacksonville Observer and writing a twice-weekly column about her experiences called New Girl in Town.

Got a suggestion for something thing Mary Elizabeth should try?  Post a comment below!

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