Message en una Botella

(Perceptive Travel December 2010)

A message-in-a-bottle washes ashore in a supposed enemy land—and builds a bridge of friendship.

Photo By Steve Virello

Photo By Steve Virello

This story starts on a Friday night just before sunset somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean. The year is 2003, the month February, and Sausalito, California-based sailor Rick Hastie is alone at the helm of the First Home, a 54-foot sailboat headed for the Virgin Islands. Rick and his two crewmates have recently cleared the Panama Canal, and in this moment, Rick is steering north toward Jamaica to escape some heavy weather blowing in from the east. He is feeling the solitude of the sea, feeling very far from everyone and everything, and all this makes him remember a promise he’d made to a bartender buddy back home the night before setting sail.

Rick puts the boat on automatic pilot, and he leaves the helm. He heads for the cabin where he retrieves a $43 bottle of Bunnahabhain single malt Scotch whisky—the bartender’s bon voyage present, now polished off. Empty bottle in hand, Rick grabs a piece of paper and a pencil, and he heads back to the helm.

What Rick pens in the cockpit is not the profoundest of posts, but it does fulfill his promise to the bartender. Rick writes: “Whoever finds this is entitled to a bottle of free Bunnahabhain Scotch at the Cat ’N Fiddle.” Rick includes his name and address, the name of his vessel, the date, the longitude and latitude. He rolls his message up and slides it down the slender neck of his green Bunnahabhain bottle. He encases his envoy in electrician’s tape, throws it into an enormous aqua-green wave, and then promptly forgets about it.

Keep reading Message en una Botella at Perceptive Travel.