Dina Docter shaded her eyes with a sand-covered hand, and squinted at the crowd. She let out a full three-second sigh.

The sand castle built by the Kensington, Md., 11-year-old, her 16-year-old brother Will and several friends, had just been chosen as the tallest castle in the First Annual Rehoboth Beach Sand Castle Contest. The prize: choice of a T-shirt or beach bag.

Somebody asked her if she had any plans for the Second Annual Rehoboth Beach Sand Castle Contest.

"Yeah," she said, still squinting at the perspiring and rapidly diminishing crowd of onlookers, sculptors and their families. "I'm gonna open a lemonade stand and charge a dollar a drink."

Everybody lauged except Dina who was quite obviously lost in the possibilities.

Possibilities abounded at Saturday's contest in Rehoboth, a place the natives like to tell you is a "family resort," implying other things abouth nearby Ocean City.

There was a possiblity that it would be very hot, which it was. There was a possibility of rain, which it didn't. And there was a possibility someone would create a masterpiece in sand (either a castle or a whale, the rules said) comparable to those created with some regularity on the West Coast. No one did.

One possibility - tha nobody would come - initially worried the folks from the local weekly newspaper that sponsored the all-day sandfest. The paper is called The Whale, which explains why contestants were asked to sculpt whales and not sea turtles, which some people did aanyway. People on vacation tend to do what they want.

But by early afternoon. Whale editor Dennis Forney's only problem involved trying to keep the big banner advertising the contest from blowing away.

"We have 43 entries," he said happily. "And most of the them are groups of three and four. It's better than we ever hoped. Hand me that stapler, eh?"

The 43 entries, each marked by a small numbered whale on a stake, were as varied as their creators - most of whom were self-confessed amateurs who didn't know about the contest until they happened by the sign.

Fourteen-year-old Eric Clark and sister Dawn, 29, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, had been planning only for a day to enter the contest, which they did with 28-year-old Jan Shafer of Hyattsville.

Patterned after a real-life Cambodian castle and designed by "an inspired Eric," their artwork "seems to be turning into something more Egyptian than we planned," said Danw Clark.

"It has a decidedly condominium influence." Shafer offered. (Whatever it was, it was chosen later as the competition's largest sand castle. Eric opted for the shirt.)

By the 4 p.m. judging time, the sculptors - many of whom had arrived as early as 10 a.m. - were growing increasingly tired, hot, impatient and skeptical.

"Are you a judge?" a 3-feet-high sculptor asked a passing photographer. The photographer said no, but could he please take a picture?

"Buzz off," said the artist, temperamentally.

In an attempt to avoid the heat, Dina Docter lay in the most surrounding her castle. Her presence in the ditch was explained with a straight face by Co-sculptor Anne Furman of Oxon Hill.

We'd like to show that sand castles can be functional and contemporary, too. This structure also contains an atrium and skylight, which you unfortunately can't see from here."

The four judges finally began their rounds at about 4:15. Among them was Rehoboth Beach Mayor Miriam Howard, who, like her three fellow judges, said she'd never judged a sand castle contest before.

"It was very nice," she said afterwards. "I'm sure the city will lend its support to another contest next year. It was a real family-oriented event, which fits right in with Rehoboth it.


Best sandcastle of the day turned out to be a modest, moat-less affair created by 15-year-old Howard Ennis of Wilmington, his 10-year-old brother Matthew and Eric Dunn, 10, of Alexandria. They won $25.

"We'll split it up between us," said Howard, "and blow it tonight."

The makers of the best whale sculpture, a huge, smiling creature with beer cans for eyes, were somewhat more ambitious.

Speaking for her seven cohorts from Wheaton, Md., and Washington, 15-year-old Gretchen Kittel of Baltimore announced the droups's plans for a nationwide tour. "It's a tribute to Orca, the killer whale," she said. "You want tickets?"

Editor Forney, 27, said the contest was started as "a sort of East Coast competition" for the more highly developed sand castle events in California. But the day was not one of visible artistic abandon.

Mike Moyer and Art Rogers, two 16-year-olds from Newark, Del., were asked what great hopes, they held for their castle in the day's competition.

"Well," said Mike, adjusting a drawbridge of reeds. "Art and I were sort of hoping for a big wave to wash away that guy'scastle over there."