Messages in a bottle . . . come home to Port Angeles couple after eight years adrift
Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Christine Loewe, Ian Miller and their children, McHenry Miller, 4, left, and Theodore Miller, 7 months, examine a bottle returned to them after it was cast adrift in the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the couple's 2006 wedding.
By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Never did Christine Loewe and Ian Miller, both of Port Angeles, think that either of two bottles filled with guests' messages from their Crescent Beach wedding eight years ago and tossed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca would find their way back to the couple.
But the better part of a decade and some 230 miles later, one did return via mail from a woman who found it while walking along an Oregon beach April 27.
“I was thrilled,” Loewe said upon getting the email from Chris Webber, who discovered the bottle.
“To be perfectly honest, I never thought I'd see it again.”
Webber, 47, found the bottle along Oregon's Arcadia Beach, near the city of Cannon Beach, while she was on a pleasure trip along the scenic stretches of U.S. Highway 101 that hem the Oregon coast.
Webber said she first thought the bottle rolled about by the waves must belong to a nearby couple.
When no one claimed it, Webber picked it up.
“It was in perfect condition. The cork was in place,” Webber said.
Then it hit her: She was holding a bottle cast into the sea.
“I am staring at a bottle that came in from the ocean,” Webber said. “It was like out of movie or something.”
Webber took the bottle to her home in Lakebay, west of Tacoma on the Key Peninsula, and opened it with a corkscrew.
Inside, Webber found roughly 30 messages of love, poetry and nuggets of advice for a successful marriage, all handwritten on small pieces of paper.
At the very bottom of the bottle lay a message from Loewe and Miller explaining what they had done and noting Loewe's email address.
“In reading the messages, I thought I'd been dropped smack dab into the middle of their wedding ceremony,” Webber said.
“It was really a surreal experience. I felt like it was a time machine experience, almost.”
A shared love of the ocean drew Miller, 41, and Loewe, 38, to Crescent Beach within Salt Creek Recreation Area for their wedding July 15, 2006, before about 100 family and friends.
The couple asked their guests to write messages on pieces of paper. The notes were then stuffed into two wine bottles, which were corked; sealed with wax; and tossed into the Strait.
Miller, a coastal hazards specialist with Washington Sea Grant — and one of the many researchers studying the impacts of the Elwha River dam removal and restoration project — said messages sent out to sea in bottles have always interested them.
He said he'd sent more than a few out himself while living around the world with his father, who was in the Navy.
I've sent lots of bottle into the ocean with messages in them, and I've never had a reply,” Miller said.
He and Loewe cast their wedding guests' messages into the ocean with the thought that the ocean would hold them in perpetuity.
“In that way, the ocean that we're drawn to becomes sort of one of our supporters,” Miller said.
How did the bottle find its way to Oregon?
Ever the scientist, Miller said he couldn't resist trying to find out.
Summer currents generally flow west through the Strait and can move as quickly as 1 knot, he said.
This suggests the bottle may have made it out of the Strait in a manner of a few days, Miller explained.
He used an online ocean current simulator to plot possible courses, based on factors including the date and location the bottle was released on and its shape.
The simulations are far from perfect, Miller said.
One showed the bottle being swept into the Pacific Ocean, tossed around in the collection of powerful currents called the North Pacific Gyre and sent north to Canada.
“But it was sort of fun to explore,” he said.
The bottle's good condition suggests it was not in the ocean itself for that long, Miller said.
It may have been washed up on another beach between Washington and Oregon for most of the eight years, then was dislodged by wave action and sent south relatively recently.
“It's just a possibility,” Miller said.
Loewe, communications coordinator for a California-based nonprofit, said the vessel and its messages are a reminder for her and Miller to take time for the two of them amid a busy life together with two young sons, McHenry Miller, 4, and Theodore Miller, 7 months.
“This is a good reminder of how it all began and kind of coming back to the roots of [our] relationship,” Loewe said.
The couple waited nearly three months from the time they received the bottle in early May to reopen it, Loewe said.
“We've been waiting for the right moment,” she said.
That moment came Saturday, about a week and a half after their eight-year wedding anniversary, as Loewe and Miller trekked out to Crescent Beach and reopened the bottle in the same spot they were wed.
“It was really wonderful,” Loewe said. “Just a really special opportunity and a special moment.”
Loewe said she was struck by the variety of messages people wrote, from advice from couples married for decades to a note from a 6-year-old that included a hand-drawn depiction of a kitten.
The bottle is now back at their home. They have no immediate plans for it.
Loewe said she's not heard that the second bottle has been found.
“There's still another one out there and still some good messages floating about in the world,” she said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: July 27. 2014 10:04AM