Messages In A Bottle

Ted’s normal routine is to walk Bodie early in the morning (“early” meaning he is usually out just as – or just before – the sun peeps over the horizon). They head for the beach first because at that time of day they can usually count on having that great expanse of sand all to themselves – and Bodie just might get to romp around in the waves off-lead.

On a recent morning walk that great expanse of sand offered up a surprise that has turned into the story you’re about to read.

A bottle was resting in the sand just beyond the tide line, and a closer look revealed several notes curled inside.
Ted picked it up, and he and Bodie continued on their normal walk – but when they got back to the house, the bottle became a mystery to be solved.

Ted spent the better part of an hour sitting at our kitchen countertop, carefully extracting the notes. We knew the bottle had not been in the water long because of its condition – clean glass, with nothing attached to the outside that would evidence a long drift in the Atlantic Ocean.

The bottle contained four notes, and as we read each one it became sadly clear the authors of the notes were a mom, a dad, and two sisters (children by the handwriting and pictures they had drawn), who were saying goodbye to their son and brother who had died. The notes were full of love and sweet memories, and they also shared a feeling of knowing they now had a guardian angel looking over them.

None of the notes were dated, and the only clue they offered up as to where the bottle might have gone into the ocean was that each was written on a notepad page from The Ritz-Carlton. The closest Ritz-Carlton to us is on Amelia Island, about 80 miles north of Flagler Beach.

Our immediate thought was “put the notes back in the bottle, seal it up, walk down to the beach and put it back into the Atlantic”.

Ted wrote this note and placed it in the bottle with the other notes.

We walked to the beach and stood there on the sand, watching the waves roll in and out. We quickly realized if we simply threw it out into the surf, it was going to almost immediately wash back up on shore. We thought of a friend who often takes his boat offshore to fish, contacted him, and he agreed to take the bottle with him when he went out again.

That afternoon Ted posted the story of the bottle on our local “Flagler Beach for Friends” Facebook page. In the one in a million chance the bottle had gone into the water here in Flagler Beach, and if the family happened to see the Facebook notice, we just wanted them to know the bottle had been found and that it would soon be on its way again.

That evening Ted was contacted by Jacksonville Fox TV meteorologist Andrew Wulfeck, who had seen the story on Facebook and wanted to write a digital story about it. He asked about the notes, which we had taken photos of, and asked if we would send them for the story. Our decison was to not do that. For us the story was simply “we found the bottle”. But for that family, the story was about their loss. We felt the messages they sent out in the bottle was one way they were coping with their grief, and their personal messages were not our story to tell.

Over the last few days Ted’s Facebook story was viewed more than 1,500 times and shared almost 85 times. Fox Weather in Jacksonville, Fox News in Orlando and Odd News (an online news source) all wrote digital stories about it. I’ve included the Fox Weather link below.

Yesterday – 7 days after Ted found the bottle – friends Rob and Helen took their fishing boat 50 miles offshore east of St. Augustine. They opened the bottle and slipped their own note inside, stating the date, time and coordinates of where the bottle was once more entering the Atlantic.

At a place known to locals as “The Ledge” Helen dropped the bottle into the water . . .
. . . and watched as it drifted away.

American poet Sarah Kay wrote, “. . . there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” Ted and I hope one day the currents will take this bottle to another shoreline. And when it arrives there, we hope the finder will continue it on the journey this family intended.