Trading messages in a bottle on the river

ALPENA – Four girls wrote a message on a piece of paper at their grandmother’s resort on Lake Winyah. In it, they said they were the children at Westpoint Shore Cabins. Then they asked questions they hoped someone would reply to.

They stuffed their letter into an empty wine bottle, sealed it with a rubber cork and faithfully lobbed it out about 50 feet into the water.

“You see it in the movies,” said 11-year-old Emma Shea, referring to films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and NOAA’s “Riddle in a Bottle.”

In similar stories, bottles often travel thousands of miles across the seas, containing mysterious or tragic messages that reach loved ones in the nick of time.

But the girls had something else in mind-snail mail.

“We all have iPods, cell phones and we text. So we wanted to try something else,” Shea said.

From shore, the girls followed their bottle as it floated into some weeds. The next day, they watched until it began to bob toward open water, they said. In total, the bottle traveled around 200 feet before they lost track of it.

Thursday afternoon they went outdoors to play, when a turtle at the shoreline distracted them. Turns out it was a brown beer bottle stoppered with the same cork they had used for their wine bottle, they said. It was stuck in place by two carefully placed branches.

Inside, they fished out a faded and antiqued missive. Someone named “Anonymous” had gone to the effort to char the paper with a candle to make it look old. Then they used a pencil to scrawl a response in spidery, old fashioned script.

“Dear Children,” the message began. “We have received your message in the bottle. Sadly, we had to break your bottle in order to see your message. Sorry. We hope aren’t too mad.”

The letter continued: “We were very excited to get your message in the bottle and we hope you write back. But we’re only visiting Alpena for a short time … Tell us something about yourselves and write back.”

On Friday, before leaving the area, the girls replied. They penned another note, slipped it in the bottle and threw it back in the lake, hoping, somehow, it will someday reach “Anonymous” again.

Six-year-old Sophia Losinski had her doubts, wondering aloud what would happen if someone else found it.

But her older sister, Sydney Losinski, had another perspective about the response they got.

“It’s nice to have people like that around,” she said.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.