By Ken MacLeod


NEWBURYPORT (CBS) – More than two decades after he tossed it into the sea as a teenager, a Newburyport man has a reply to his message in a bottle – from across the ocean. “Yeah, it’s weird,” says Matt Rhoades.

As a music teacher – and heavy metal vocalist – Rhoades almost always has a tune in his head. But in recent days he’s been thinking more about a plastic bottle discovered last week along the rocky coastline of Scotland.

“When you do something like that,” says Rhoades, “you don’t expect there’s a human on the other end of it – someday – maybe.”

It was 1998, and Matt was a 13-year-old boy on vacation with his family in Wells, Maine, when he tossed that bottle into the ocean – containing a note that he admits was somewhat less than profound.

Matt Rhoades threw this message in a bottle in the ocean in 1998 (WBZ-TV)

“Hello, my name is Matt Rhoades,” the note reads. “Please write back.”

It included his then address and a smiley face.

“Why I didn’t write something cool,” Matt says now, “or something about the time, or more information about myself – I just don’t know.”

“I was pretty intrigued,” says Scotsman Mike Bowlan. “I’d never found a message in a bottle before.”

Indeed, after 21 years and nearly 3000 miles, Mike Bowlan and his daughters discovered the message while vacationing on the Scottish island of North Uist – and decided it was worthy of a reply.

Matt Rhoades (WBZ-TV)

“In a way,” says Bowlan, “it was a message from the past.”

By sleuthing on the internet and Twitter, the Bowlan’s made the transatlantic connection and found Matt, prompting the now 34-year-old to take stock of his life during all those years the bottle was floating.

“Yeah it’s cool to reflect on that – am I proud of the path I’ve taken,” says Rhoades. “How often do you get to really dig into that? This made me sit down and think.”

“This was actually quite an amazing story,” offers Bowlan.

Matt Rhoades sent this message in a bottle in 1998 (WBZ-TV)

Amazing to some – but not others.

“My sisters has made it a point to call me several times,” says Rhoades, “and tell me that – at the end of the day – all I did was pollute.”

If it helps, the Bowlans recycled the bottle.

And after achieving some significant notoriety in the music biz, Rhoades has found his image somewhat recycled.

“I was in Starbucks this morning and somebody was like ‘The bottle guy!’” says Rhoades with a laugh, “and I said ‘Oh my God!’”

Nevertheless, there will be guys on both sides of the pond telling this story for a long, long time.

Ken MacLeod

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