By Don Cuddy, The Standard Times

MATTAPOISETT (AP) — A message in a bottle, thrown into the Gulf Stream by a Mattapoisett woman more than two years ago, washed up on a beach in Norway this summer after a voyage of more than 3,700 miles.

In July of 2010, Mary Lou Manley was sailing home from Bermuda on the Lilla, a boat owned by her Mattapoisett neighbor’s Nancy and Simon DePietro, when she cast the sealed rum bottle into the ocean current. Inside it were tributes in memory of her partner Ken MacKenzie, a lifelong sailor who succumbed to cancer that May, aged 69. For many years, Mackenzie owned the Ticonderoga, a classic 72-foot wooden ketch built in 1936 and widely regarded as the finest creation of legendary yacht designer L. Francis Herreshoff.

On Aug. 6, Anne-Mette Bredal was taking her morning walk on the beach near her vacation home in Holkestad, a small coastal community above the Arctic circle, when she saw something shiny among the rocks. It was the bottle, with the contents clearly visible.

Although itching to open it, Bredal waited to share the moment with her friend Hege Elisabeth Albriktsen and her family. The find generated such excitement that they made a ceremony out of opening it, according to a story that appeared in the local paper, Nord-Salten.

They first tried to guess its origin, although they presumed it had likely been thrown from the Hurtigruta, a coastal steamer, according to Karoline O.A. Pettersen, who reported the story. When the women cracked the bottle, they were astounded to discover it had crossed the ocean.

“It is an amazing story and one woman even got goose bumps reading it,” Pettersen said in an email to The Standard-Times about local reaction to the story.

Among the contents, the finders discovered a picture of MacKenzie, the story that launched the bottle on its journey, along with Manley’s email address and an invitation to visit Yesterday’s Alehouse in Newport to toast the life of Ken MacKenzie.

Manley said she was thrilled when an email from Albriktsen arrived announcing the find. “We understood this must have been a very loved man, so last night we felt obligated to toast the great sailor and friend Ken MacKenzie and are very glad that we got to share this with you,” Albriktsen wrote.

Even more remarkable, this is the second bottle honoring MacKenzie that has made its way across the Atlantic. A bottle with similar contents, thrown from the Lilla on the outward voyage to Bermuda came ashore in the Hebrides islands in Scotland in June 2010. A vacationing English couple found it on a lonely beach and they also contacted Manley. “It’s almost as if Ken is letting me know that his spirit lives on,” she said. “Even in death he has touched so many.”

Albriktsen is planning a trip to the U.S. to have that drink in Newport and Manley hopes to visit both countries next summer to see the beaches where the bottles were found.

While it is remarkable that these bottle survived the crossing intact, their trajectory is fairly predictable, said NOAA oceanographer Jim Manning. NOAA routinely sends out “drifters,” equipped with satellite tracking devices to study ocean currents. “It only takes them a month or two to get out in mid-ocean,” he said. “But then they can meander around. About half of them come ashore somewhere.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


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