Message in a Bottle–The Full Story

Weeks ago I announced the discovery of a bottled message I posted to the uncertain mercies of an ocean delivery service late in the F8V. At the time I was short on details. Here are the details.

At 1:57 pm on April 15th of this year, I received the following email with the below photograph attached:

“Hello, today while cleaning a beach in the Berry Islands, I found this message in a bottle. Curious to know if Randall completed the circumnavigation? Interested in hearing his story, ~Deb”

Why this communication gave me such a thrill I find hard to explain, but after its receipt, I ran around the house cheering as though a horse I’d bet on in the distant past had unexpectedly paid off.

Initially, I kept a careful record of message launches as Mo and I passed down the Pacific and then around the Southern Ocean, but by now (day 216), we were forty-four days from our second rounding of Cape Horn and fifteen days north of the line. For weeks the Atlantic trades had lulled me with their soft warmth, and I had become lazy.

For example, the report I filed on day 216 pontificated needlessly upon the finer points of celestial navigation, but neither it nor the log nor any photos memorialized the launch of this particular missive. Luckily, I recorded the position on the note itself.

But where had the bottle come ashore and under what circumstances found? Further correspondence with the discoverer, Deb Kremer, cruising with her husband Keith aboard M/V RightHand, revealed the answer:

“We were anchored near Hoffman’s Cay (in the Bahama’s Berry Island Group) and decided to clean that beach while we were waiting for a weather window. The approximate location of the discovery was 25° 38’ 44.26” N, 77° 44’ 50.89” W.

“Our friends, Eddie and Gail on Seaquel were helping us, and they are probably the reason I found the bottle.  My original intention was just to clear any items that could entangle turtles, but once we got started they, suggested we clean up everything.  

“The beach had a lot of debris (mainly plastic) and there wasn’t really any place for us to dispose of the trash, but once we got all of the lines, nets, and ropes moved high into the vegetation, we went back for the trash.

“The sight of an unbroken bottle was very rare (I had only seen one other bottle all day), but as I was walking to throw it into our trash pile, I noticed the cork.  

“That is what made me hold the bottle up to the light.  The glass was so dark I didn’t originally see the note.  I was so excited when I saw the scroll of paper! I called everyone over and sat on a rock to pry the cork out with my knife.  It’s always exciting to find a message in a bottle!

“What amazes me is that the bottle made it ashore in one piece.  That side of the island is very rugged with large rock outcrops every few hundred feet.

“I took a picture of the note and bottle right away…”

The bottle and its message just after discovery by Deb Kremer. Thanks to Jim Walter and Rick Hutchinson of Amphora Winery for supplying the bottle, which served to carry a delicious blend of Grenache, Mouvedre, and Syrah until the night before its departure.
Keith removing debris from the beach.
Keith and Deb pause for a snap after a job well done. Recall Deb’s above reference to “large rock outcrops.”

How long the bottle took to achieve landfall is a matter of conjecture, but its route is another matter. From the point of drop at 19 37N and 54 19W to the point of discovery on a windward beach of Hoffman Cay is a rhumbline distance of 1,353nm. But that the bottle could maintain such a dedicated course seems highly unlikely.

The rhumbline distance between drop and discovery.

First off, if the bottle followed the easterly trade winds, it would have been pushed far to the west before hooking north, creating a path with the rough shape of a boomerang.

A boomerang-shaped route due to the trades.

A look at currents local to that ocean sector suggests an even more complex route, though the bottle still reached to the west before the trend to the north.

A complex route would be created by local currents.

One interesting feature of the trip taken by this bottle was that in order to achieve Hoffman Cay, it had to thread a pass, the North East Channel, without getting hung up on the reefs of either Great Abaco or Eleuthera Island, a clever trick given its mode of steerage.

Though I don’t now recall the particulars of this send-off, the event was usually well documented, like the note and launch below from day seven out of San Francisco on the second F8V attempt.

Messages were addressed to my lovely wife and usually included helpful hints for managing the house while I was away.
A quick flight before the long soak.

And then there was this “instructional” video produced on the occasion of the second bottle launch. At the time, I had hopes for a great number of retrievals, this based on the “bottle work” of my friend Matt, who has launched many messages in this manner and has a nearly ten percent retrieval rate.

With luck, this find is merely the first in a series, but the luck will have to be strong as most of the other bottles I sent on their merry way had much further to go before encountering a friendly, not to mention peopled, shore.

Many thanks to Deb Kremer for retrieving my message and caring enough to make contact. I am grateful.

5 Comments on “Message in a Bottle–The Full Story

  1. Glad that there are cruisers out there to clean up after you.

    • Given that glass and sand are both silicon dioxide – bottles are a pretty inert thing to toss overboard… and possibly a ‘safe home’ for a marine organism 😉

  2. Brilliant, serendipity is what makes life interesting and rewarding. I envy your adventures Randall.

  3. That is totally awesome! Thank you for sharing such detail of the bottle adventure!Mark you it a pretty special bottle!

  4. I wonder if the surge and winds of Hurricane Dorian (September 1-3 in the Bahamas) helped to overcome the reefs of Great Abaco and Eleuthera? There appears to be considerable overlap of your wind/current mapping, and the storm track.

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