A Belfast couple have described how “magical” it was to finally meet the sender of a message in a bottle they found on a beach nearly a year ago.
ita Simmonds and Ciaran Marron found the bottle while walking on the beach at Magheraroarty in Co Donegal in January this year.
With persistence and the help of an American reporter, they were able to track down US boy Sasha Yonyak, who shipped the bottle when he was just 11 years old.
Today Sasha – now 15 – flew to Dublin for the first time with his father Vlad and met the West Belfast couple in person for the first time.
“I had butterflies at the airport because I was so excited,” said Rita, who is originally from New Zealand.
“It’s such an accidental connection that we met through this bottle, and the bottle carries a story with it.”
As a gift, Sasha even brought a new message in a bottle with some sand from his own US beaches as another souvenir for his new pen pals.
However, it is much less dented than its original bottle, which traveled over two years and 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to land in North West Ireland.
“I thought it was really cool that the bottle was found in Ireland and not broken somewhere,” Sasha told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I threw it in the sea around New Year’s about three years ago. I thought when I threw it in it would sink, but I saw it swim and I thought, “It should be good, it should make it”.
“I thought maybe a propeller or a rock would hit it and break it, but I forgot and I’m here now.”
Sasha’s bottle had already made a separate journey before reaching Ciaran and Rita, having first spotted it when he and his favorite neighbor Wayne Smith went on a fishing trip in Ocean City, Maryland, where they are from.
There, at a marina, they found the bottle in the water with two dollar bills and a note from two ladies asking the finder of the letter to “forward it.”
Sasha then wrote his own letter, describing his hobbies and the good time he was having with his “three buddies” – Wayne, Wayne’s wife Lisa and their dog Stoney.
It reads: “Hi, my name is Sasha and I am 11 years old with 1 brother and 1 sister. I live in Ocean City, Maryland. I love boogie boarding, fishing and more. I love fish and shrimp. I love cycling. I’m a really active person. I have three friends, Stone, Lisa [and] wayne Please forward.”
Sasha said he and Wayne then traveled a mile into the Gulf Stream – a strong current that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic – and threw the bottle in.
Sadly, Wayne passed away in August 2021 at the age of 64, but Sasha’s father Vlad said her trip to the island of Ireland was a “tribute” to him.
“I want to throw in another bottle now [when in Donegal] just to see where it can go,” Sasha added. “Maybe it goes somewhere else.”
When they first saw the bottle on the beach that winter day, Rita said, “I was about to walk past it, but Ciaran walked up to it because he could see there was something in it, and he picked it up and said, ‘ Rita, this bottle will take us on a journey.
She continued: “It’s really difficult to write a happy story at this point because of what happened in Creeslough. It’s such a tragedy but a lot of magical things happen in Donegal too and luckily that was such a good thing and for Sasha Wayne is actually a part of his journey here.”
While the phone number on the bottle was disconnected because it was Wayne’s business number, Rita and Ciaran were able to locate Sasha through a Maryland journalist, even though they didn’t have his last name at the time.
“Rita called a local newspaper who happened to know Sasha’s family,” Ciaran explained.
“It’s just a beautiful story. We will show you the sights of Donegal, some of the ancient caves and buildings and the beach where we found the bottle. We hope we make it interesting for them.”
He noted that so much of it “is thanks to Stephanie Abrams,” a US travel radio host who heard about the story and paid Sasha, his father – who is originally from Belarus – and the Belfast duo to stay at the luxurious Harvey’s to stay at Point Hotel in Donegal for two nights.
“It’s a good Irish fairy tale,” added Ciaran. “And the story could never end. I’ve been looking for a message in a bottle my whole life, I’ve checked every bottle on the beaches and actually finding one is magical.
“It’s a good story for humanity – time to come together.”
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/belfast-couple-unite-with-us-teen-the-sender-of-message-in-a-bottle-they-found-nine-months-ago-42076613.html Belfast couple unite with US teen — the sender of message in a bottle they found nine months ago