When Gloucester’s Jeanne Blake found a message in a bottle, her efforts to return it to the ocean set off sparks of connection she had never envisioned. 

Blake’s contact with the bottle’s 10-year-old sender has brought him a welcomed distraction from the social lock-down caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A leadership communications consultant, Blake recently spotted the bottle floating in shallow surf on her daily beach walk.  

The bottle had traveled 110 miles from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, sent by fifth-grader Joe Gray and his friend Aidan Marks on Feb. 20. Blake was the third person to find the bottle; a family from Biddeford, Maine, had discovered it and put a second note inside.

Blake was unable to remove or read the messages through the glass bottle no matter how hard she tried. She had to break the bottle to find out the origins of its messages.  

Blake, one of the original anchors of the popular television show “Chronicle,” knows the elements that make a good story. She found that her telephone call to Gray brought him joy to know someone found his bottle. 

After Seabreeze Liquors learned of the story and donated a replacement bottle, Blake attempted to throw it into the sea, but the waves kept returning it to shore.

So she reached out to Robert Porter, a Gloucester father of three who fishes from the FV Bantry Bay, to help her get the bottle to deep water to capture a current to carry that message to a more distant destination.

A few days later, Porter took the bottle out to sea.

“What a beautiful, calm day it turned out to be. It was warm and the sun was shining with whales all over the place, about ten of them,” he related. “It’s been a slow winter fishing up until the last few weeks when the haddock started to show up and there was an unusual profusion of life that day. There were a lot of gannets, which we usually see in the summer, and the whales were breaching as an added bonus.”

Porter held up the bottle to get a photograph for the boys in Maine.

“It’s tough enough to get a photo of a whale breaching anyway, but to hold up the bottle at the same time was an interesting surprise,” he said. “I was just the messenger for the message in the bottle. But there is a little bit of magic in every day — you just got to find it.”

Porter also provided the boys with the coordinates where he dropped the bottle in this maritime mailing of sorts.

The first known message in a bottle dates to ancient Greece when it was recorded that philosopher Theophrastus put a message in a bottle to test a theory about water currents.

In the late 20th century, best-selling author and minister Robert Fulghum noted on his website that the return rate of finding a message in a bottle is extremely low, and he has tried many times with never any response.

“It’s estimated that less than 3 per cent of bottles that are launched are ever found. This comes from scientific research into ocean currents studied by dropping various floating devices into the seas of the planet,” wrote Fulghum.

Blake said her part in continuing the journey of this boy’s oceanic message was “an act of hope” during this troubled time in human history.

In her phone conservation with Gray, the boy told her that this episode with the message-in-the-bottle has helped him to keep his mind off “the gigantic plague that’s coming.”

Blake has found this is a story that keeps on giving. This past weekend, she had a conference call with the boy, his mother Jennifer Gray, and Porter, who together with his wife Laurel own the Coveted Yarn shop in Gloucester. During their chat, the boy and the fisherman found they had something in common — they both know how to knit.

All parties are hoping that this is not the end of this seafaring tale.

To read Blake’s narrative of her experience, go to https://bit.ly/2VkIJnQ.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

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