Once Dani McCormack tossed the bottle off her uncle’s fishing boat three summers ago, she didn’t think about it again.
Maybe that’s because she was having so much fun with her relatives who were visiting from Boston and Maine.
Or maybe it’s because she was just five years old at the time.
So, Dani, who is now eight, was surprised and excited to learn her bottle – and the message it contained – had been found by a couple in North Carolina.
On a snowy December evening, at the beginning of the Christmas holidays, Dani sat down at the kitchen table with her brother, Cameron, and mom, Mallory McInnis to talk to the people who found it.
Ann Huntley’s voice comes through the phone.
“Hi,” replies Dani.
Ann and her husband, Roy, ask Dani about herself and what she remembered about the day she threw the bottle out to sea.
McInnis fills in the gaps in Dani’s memory.
The family was out on her uncle Archie McInnis’ fishing boat, the Anna Rose, off Nufrage Harbour in 2017.
“That would have been in August,” says McInnis. “My uncle has a fishing boat there, so we go out on his boat every year and, yeah, we had a bunch of cousins out with us that day and we all decided to do it.”
McInnis’ aunt had prepared the bottles, and each family wrote a note and sent them off to parts unknown.
“It’s just so crazy, I completely forgot about it,” says McInnis.
The message in Dani’s bottle travelled from near Nufrage on the north side of P.E.I. all the way to Ocracoke Island in North Carolina – some 2,200 kilometres by land.
Roy and Ann found the bottle on Nov. 10 while they are walking the beach near their Island home. It’s a popular place for collecting shells, so they felt lucky to be the first to happen upon it.
The Huntleys contacted a P.E.I. newspaper with their find, hoping to discover the sender. They sent along a photo of the message, with several parts missing after moisture entered the bottle.
The day the story was published, McInnis returned to their home in Savage Harbour after work to find several messages from family asking if this was Dani’s bottle.
Love of books
“As soon as I looked at it, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s my writing. I remember,’” says McInnis.
Longtime Ocracoke residents, the Huntley’s marvelled at the bottle’s journey in the Labrador Current through Atlantic Canada and into the Gulf Stream which flows past Ocracoke.
“Now that I know it was floating around for three years, it makes me wonder if it didn’t go east, to the U.K. and then came down,” says Roy, still wondering at the ocean voyage.
Then Ann asks Dani: “Do you like to read?”
The response is enthusiastic from Mom and daughter.
Dani’s eyes sparkle and she smiles when she thinks of the favourite pastime.
“I have some favourite books that I would love to send to Dani,” says Ann and promised to send two horse stories about islands on the East Coast of the U.S. like Ocracoke: Taffy of Torpedo
Junction by Nell Wise Wechter and Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.
Ann tells Dani there are wild ponies on the island where her bottle washed ashore.
Again a smile. Dani visits her friend’s horses sometimes and she tells Ann about it.
Living a dream
The Huntleys have always dreamed about finding a message in a bottle.
“Well, I have to tell you, that being able to talk to you and find you … this has been such a joy for our Christmas holiday,” says Ann. “You can’t believe how excited we were to have found this bottle.”
“Well, it’s a great way to end 2020,” says McInnis.
Roy chimes in.
“Hey, Dani, can I ask you a question?
“Are you planning to come to Ocracoke anytime soon?”