On March 31, 2005, six grandchildren of Tom and Nancy Whitman, a snowbirding couple from Doylestown, Ohio, were about to head home after Easter vacation. None of them was happy about leaving the beach.
Nancy, a retired seventh-grade teacher, decided to come up with a project that would ease their departure.
"I told them they should each put a message in a bottle and drop it off the pier," Nancy said the other day at her winter rental in Cherry Grove.
She told the kids she once heard that a bottle had made it all the way to England.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I made that up," she admitted the other day. "I never heard of a bottle going across the Atlantic."
It didn't matter. The possibilities were enough to get the kids excited.
"We went to Boulineau's and bought six blue Dasani bottles," she said. "We emptied the bottles and each child put a message in a bottle, then sealed it with duct tape."
The messages noted that the children were vacationing at Myrtle Beach, S.C, with their grandparents and included information on how the writer could be reached.
Then they all marched to the end of the Cherry Grove Pier and tossed the bottles in the water.
The wind off the ocean was especially strong that day.
Nancy feared the bottles would simply wash up on the beach. Within days, maybe hours, the bottles were forgotten.
Eighteen months later, on Oct. 13, 2006, the following e-mail showed up in the computer of Richard Garbinsky, whose 10-year-old son Nick was one of the children who dropped a bottle off the pier.
It was from Martin Christmas of Wales.
"You can tell Nick we have found his message.
"I was out surfing yesterday at Hell's Mouth (Porth Neigwl) on the end of the Lleyn Peninsula, North Wales, which is located on the west coast of the U.K.
"It took us some time to get the message out, and you will be pleased to know we did not have to smash the bottle."
He said a part of the message was illegible.
"I guess it had been in the sun for a long time and had faded," he said, adding that the bottle had various shellfish living on it.
Christmas found Richard Garbinsky's email address by typing "Garbinsky" into Google.
He then matched the phone number in the message with the Garbinsky number in the Doylestown telephone directory.
It turned out that Christmas had a Ph.D in ecology and was working for the British equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency, focusing on conserving rare plants and animals.
From his knowledge of ocean movement, he said the bottle probably had traveled across the Atlantic, then around Ireland and up the Irish Sea to North Wales, a distance of about 6,000 miles.
"Ask Nick," the e-mail said, "if he wants me to relaunch the bottle in the North Sea the next time I am surfing out there. Maybe it will reach Scandinavia and beyond."
Nick, ever the adventurer, said to go ahead with a relaunch.