(HAMPTON, N.H.) — A message in a bottle sent nearly 50 years ago from New Hampshire has made its way back home, after it traveled more than 1,000 miles to a small island in the Caribbean.
The old glass Coke bottle with a folded message inside turned up in Turks and Caicos in 2011. Clint Buffington from Salt Lake City, Utah told ABC News he found it while vacationing there.
The cryptic message inside said, “Return to 419 Ocean Boulevard and receive a reward of $150 from Tina, the owner of Beachcomber.”
Buffington has been hunting and collecting bottles with messages as a hobby since 2007. So far, he has collected more than 80. But this one led him on a special quest.
“I’ve never given one back to someone,” he told ABC News. “But in this case I knew it was the right thing to do. Just imagine it was a letter from your parents.”
Buffington said he made it his mission to try and find “Tina,” or her family, to return the message and collect the reward.
“I didn’t know if Beachcomber was the name of a boat or a restaurant,” Buffington said. “I went through Google Maps but I didn’t know what I was seeing.”
Finding the family also proved difficult because “there is an Ocean Boulevard in every state on the coast,” he said.
Buffington wrote about finding the bottle on his blog, which is about his adventures in message-in-a-bottle collecting, in 2011. He even created an online poll where people could guess what the “Beachcomber” was.
Eventually, after a lot of online research and speaking to the county clerk and the tax assessor, Buffington found the original deed of sale for the piece of land that became the Beachcomber Motel. The property was owned by Paul and Tina Tsiatsios of Hampton, New Hampshire.
Paul and Tina had since passed away, but he was able to track down their daughter, Paula Pierce, who was still in New Hampshire.
Although he made contact with Paula a few years ago, he said he wasn’t able to travel to New Hampshire until this year. “I wasn’t going to trust this with the mail,” he added.
On Monday, Buffington finally arrived in New Hampshire and returned the message Pierce, an estimated fifty years after her father dropped it in the ocean.
Pierce couldn’t believe it when she saw the 50-year-old letter that her father wrote, she told ABC News. She said her father passed away in December of 1990 and her mother passed away earlier, in November of 1980.
“My father wasn’t a good speller, so there were a few misspellings in it: He misspelled received, boulevard, and beachcomber,” Pierce said. “We don’t know if it was on purpose so he could deny responsibility, or if it was a mistake.”
Pierce said that she didn’t know about the letter in a bottle, but that her husband knew about it this whole time.
“My father secretly told my husband, who I have known since 1969. He told my husband that he did this soon after he bought the motel, which they did in 1960,” Pierce said. “My husband never told any of us.”
Her father, Paul, did it as a way of showing affection to her mother, Tina, she thinks. “It was a very sweet gesture, he was trying to tease her,” Pierce said.
Paul was very proud of Tina for running the Beachcomber Motel, she said, but he was also teasing her with the amount of the reward.
“The joke part of it was that rooms were going for 15 or 20 dollars a night back then, and that was a lot,” Pierce said. “So 150 dollars was a lot of money back then.”
Pierce said she gave Buffington the $150 reward in cash; she thought it was the right thing to do. “It is like completing the circle.”
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