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It may sound funny coming from me, but the odds of finding even a single message in a bottle are astronomical. Finding two from the same person? That’s just bananas. My family and I have found a few from the same senders, technically–like the Guinness messages in bottles–but they’re a big company, and they sent 150,000 of them! As for individual people, I knew of only one other person in the world who had found two messages in bottles from the same individual person. Until I heard from Pip Manby.

Her amazing and fun story follows. Enjoy!

“It was New Years Eve last year, and to clear to slightly hungover heads and to let off some steam for two kids and two dogs, we all went to our local beach.

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While walking along my husband found a message in a bottle! He shouted out to me and my son Zak. We all ran over and he gave it to me to try and get the message out as the lid was missing.*

We couldn’t quite believe it after all these years treading the same beach with the dogs. I have walked this beach many times in the hope of finding one and lo and behold there was one! We got the message out by shaking it about and pulling it out with my fingers.

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This is me, Zak, and the dogs–Chaos and Earl–at our local beach on the Isle of Lewis.

We were all quite excited to read it and as soon as we could.

The message was from a guy called Craig Drover. On June 5th, 2015, Craig threw the bottle over the side of his fishing boat, the Arctic Eagle, on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in Canada. So, it took nearly 7 months to cross the ocean to our little Scottish Island! As soon as I got home I emailed Craig but the email address just didn’t work so I thought I’d look his name up on Facebook and lo and behold there was a name match. I messaged him and he replied saying that it was him that had put it overboard.

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Three months later I walked a three-mile stretch of coast—again on the Isle of Lewis— with my trusty dogs. To my amazement I found another. I thought it looked similar to the one my husband had found–similar bottle, note secured in a plastic bag. But I thought that the chances of it being from the same guy were slim.

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Me and the dogs and the second message in a bottle. This one was dated 10th June, 2015.

I couldn’t open it there so I had to take it home and open it with scissors. Again, the family were all as excited! Amazingly it was from the same guy, from the same boat while they were fishing for snow crabs. When I realised it was from Craig I really couldn’t believe it! All those miles across from Canada, with the weather and currents, landing within a couple of miles of each other. Mad! Again I got in touch and we were both pretty amazed!

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I work with elderly people and often tell them about it, most who were born and bred on these beautiful isles and in return for my story I often hear their tales of things that have washed ashore here. From boxes of post from neighbouring isles to sad tales of shipwrecks with many lives lost, to whales washed ashore and herring shoals that came ashore when the islanders needed food. I have learned some amazing stories from the people of the outer hebrides and hope to hear many more.

Me and Craig are now friends on Facebook, and every time I am on the beach I keep my eyes peeled for another message in a bottle. I also pick up a few bits of rubbish and bring them home and put them in the bin–mostly plastic which we all know is no good for wildlife or the environment. But I think a message in a bottle is more of a treasure than trash, put overboard not to litter but to possibly cheer someone up. From what I can see it brings joy to many.”

*MIB Hunter’s note: Plastic lids are made from a different plastic than the bottles, so they sometimes fall apart at different speeds. Most likely the bottle washed ashore intact and then the cap rotted off.

***

On the other end of Pip’s messages is a man named Craig who has a curious mind and an open heart. Here’s his side of the story:

“Sending messages in bottles is kind of a hobby of mine. I’ve gotten back roughly 60-70 replies from several countries over the years. But the same person finding two from the same person–what are the odds of that?

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Craig’s collection of responses from folks who have found his messages in bottles. Pip’s in the middle row, all the way left.

I started sending out messages about 15 years ago. When I am out fishing crab, we fish during the day and shut down for the night. I decided to do this one night while up on watch to relieve the boredom. The first reply I got was from Ireland, and I have made a lot of friends from different countries through messages in bottles.

We keep in touch through social media, and I have even exchanged gifts with some of the finders. I haven’t gotten to meet with any finders yet, but I hope to travel to Europe and visit some of the countries where my bottles have travelled and hopefully meet some finders.

When I received Pip’s first reply, it was “routine” for me because I had gotten so many replies, but still, every reply is as exciting as the last!

But I was blown away by her second reply. Just like the old saying about ‘finding a needle in a haystack,’ Pip  found two needles in the Atlantic Ocean. They could have ended up anywhere.”

***

The story of Pip and Craig connecting via two messages in bottles inspires the exact sense of wonder that drives me to seek out these treasures among the trash that washes ashore.

It is also a reminder that messages in bottles are one of the few, rare, precious things in the world that can connect people from different countries and cultures–can make folks care about someone who was a stranger before the bottled note connected them. It’s exactly why I cherish finding messages in bottles from senders beyond the US–it gives me a window into life in other countries and cultures. Truly, it is a treat.

Within the US, there is a feeling among many that our country is more “divided” than it’s ever been–at least according to politicians and the media. I don’t know enough to weigh in on that, honestly. But I do know that every message in a bottle I find that happens to be from an American, every sender I connect with, brings me closer to my fellow Americans. It blows open a window into an unknown person’s life, and from their life into mine. Maybe we’ll agree politically, maybe not. But we will be connected by a rare and beautiful thing, and that will make us see, first, the humanity in each other. That’s a beautiful thing, regardless of where we come from.

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