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Laurie’s dream comes true with a message in a bottle

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Laurie Zuill with the bottle and message she found floating in Bailey’s Bay (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Bottle sender Pennel Ames of Nantucket, Massachusetts with his grandson Cooper (Photograph supplied)
The message and bottle found by Laurie Zuill last month (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
The Bailey’s Bay inlet where Laurie Zuill found a bottle with a message in it (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Laurie Zuill with the bottle and message she found floating in Bailey’s Bay (Photograph supplied)
The bottle Laurie Zuill found floating in Bailey’s Bay (Photograph supplied)

Laurie Zuill had been on the lookout for a message in a bottle her whole life.

So when she spotted one floating in Bailey’s Bay last month, it was a dream come true.

“I was out taking photos of long tails,” said the photographer, who frequently posts her shots on Facebook pages 441 Photo Bermuda and Bermuda’s Best Shots Photography. “The long tails became a bit idle, so I glanced at the water. I saw this bottle floating around.”

She could just make out what looked like a piece of paper rolled up inside the brown wine bottle, which was floating on top of the water.

“I thought, that looks like a message in a bottle,” she said.

There was just one problem – the bottle was located at the foot of a steep cliff. From her perch on the railway trail above it, Ms Zuill deliberated for about 20 minutes.

Climbing down seemed dangerous; she thought about running home to Smith’s, to collect her pool net and “put a long extension on it”.

“I thought if I got to a certain level on the cliff, I could go over to that side. Then lo and behold, a kayaker came out.”

Will Collins agreed to collect the bottle for her.

“He kayaked up to a certain level and then said he was just going to throw it on the rocks. Fortunately, the bottle did not break.

“I was so excited that I found this message in a bottle, because every day I am out looking for one. Then out of the blue, literally, I found one.”

At home she read the later inside, which was dated April 18, 2016:

“Congratulations on finding a real message in a bottle,” it said. “This bottle was thrown from a boat that was travelling between Nantucket, and Hyannis, Massachusetts. I assume it will land some place between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or may even travel back to Nantucket! It was dropped into the ocean with many other bottles at the very same time, so look around and you may find other bottles in the area. A true treasure hunt!

“I would be interested in knowing the location and the date / year that you found this message in a bottle. Please take the time to send us a note of your find. Thank you. Have a nice day.”

The letter was signed by P. Ames and included a post office box address in Nantucket.

Pennel Ames’s wife Sharon told The Royal Gazette that her husband was a commercial fisherman until he retired 15 years ago.

“When he would go offshore fishing our two young daughters would help him make up bottles for him to drop in the ocean,” Mrs Ames said.

Over the years they collected caseloads of empty wine bottles from Nantucket restaurants and deposited them into the ocean.

“The bottles would get washed, letters would get typed and printed up,” Mrs Ames said. “We got a handheld corking machine. We soon found that we needed to save a copy of each letter batch dropped because the letters were being found in so many directions – from France to Canada and several islands in the Caribbean.”

One bottle travelled for three years before it was found in Cuba.

“Bottles do not cross the equator,” Mrs Ames said. “It was all dependent on the winter weather patterns, and which current the bottles would catch and travel on.

“For a while many were being found in France, Spain, England, Portugal, Scotland and Ireland, but then some would spend years maybe stuck on rocks on small islands not visited frequently like Abaco in Bahamas.”

Ms Zuill’s was the fifth bottle to have washed up here. The first arrived in September 2004, a year after being tossed. Another from that same batch was not found until 2012. One dropped in the ocean on August 9, 2004 was found here by Manuel Moura the following January. The fourth was dropped in September 2004 and found in 2008.

Hearing from the people who found the bottles was always exciting.

“People would send us great letters and often photos of their found bottles,” she said. “We often ask the condition of the letter paper – dry or mouldy? Some bottles are found perfectly clean, meaning they maybe had a rough ride; some are full of barnacles.”

They have learnt that green glass preserves the letters the best, and the ink on the letters in clear bottles tends to fade.

Ms Zuill’s bottle was the first they had heard about from the batch they dropped in 2016.

“Pennel had long stopped fishing commercially in 2016,” Mrs Ames said. “But in 2016 he sold his fishing boat to a man in Northern Maine. While delivering the boat to the mainland, in Hyannis from Nantucket, Pennel threw his last cases of messages in bottles.”

Mr Ames left the new boat owner with a case of bottles to continue the tradition.

Ms Zuill sent the family a picture of their bottle floating in the water here.

“I made it like a little post card, put a note on the back and mailed it to him,” she said.

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Published June 28, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 29, 2021 at 8:04 am)

Laurie’s dream comes true with a message in a bottle

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