SALT LAKE CITY -- A message in a bottle sent out to sea more than five decades ago was found 1,500 miles away and returned to a family in New Hampshire.
The long-lost message was discovered by a Salt Lake City man who was vacationing in Turks and Caicos in 2011.
"[I found] this Coke bottle half buried in the sand, looked like it had been there since the beginning of time,” said 31-year-old Clint Buffington. “On the paper, there was something written in pencil, like handwriting, it said, 'Look inside.'"
Buffington is a musician and a writing teacher, and finding messages is a hobby for him. He has found 82 so far.
He started the hobby in 2007 with his dad. They found one, and he became addicted to the excitement. He has met 12 of the people whose messages he has found, but this one that he found in 2011 was the first time he returned a message. When he opened it, it was tough to read.
"I could read words like 'return' and 'Beachcomber,'" Buffington said.
Buffington used those soggy words to search for the sender and the story. He had to call the Hampton Chamber of Commerce, a county clerk and a tax assessor in New Hampshire. After some searching he found it was written by Paula Pierce's father, possibly more than 50 years ago.
Paula’s parents are both gone now.
"And it just hit me, it was my father's writing, and I was shocked,” said Pierce as she was sitting next to Buffington. He flew up to New Hampshire to find her and deliver the message.
Paula’s father and mother bought the Beachcomber Motel in Hampton in 1960. Paula said she had learned that her dad thought the message in a bottle would be a good joke to play on her mom, Tina.
He wrote, "return to 419 Ocean Boulevard and receive a reward of $150 from Tina, owner of the Beachcomber."
Paula said her dad had thought it would be funny for a perfect stranger to come up to her at the motel and say, "Hi, I found your message. Where is my $150 reward?"
The Beachcomber was sold a couple of years ago, but Buffington recently flew to New Hampshire to deliver the message in a bottle
"This is special because it brings back a piece of him, a piece of her, a piece of my childhood, a piece of the Beachcomber," Pierce said. "All of these things are very hard to lose."
She insisted on living up to her father's promise, giving Buffington that reward.
"You returned it and you have to take it... You have to take it,” said Pierce to Buffington.
But the biggest reward is the message in a bottle finding its way back home
If you want to learn more about Buffington’s message in a bottle adventures, visit his blog.