By Cheryl Costello
It sounds like a movie script. A message in a bottle travels more than 3,000 miles across the ocean, from Ocean City to a beach in Ireland. It’s not a movie, but a true story that connected a pair of Maryland fishing friends with a couple on another continent.
Sasha Yonyak, 14, and his neighbor and friend Wayne Smith took the bottle about a mile offshore of Ocean City during a fishing trip over two years ago. “We would think that it would go to the Gulf Stream and float down it a little bit and then go somewhere … but we didn’t know how far it would go.”
Yonyak’s father, Vlad Yonyak, says the boy and Smith, 64, had a special friendship. “They were very good friends. They spent a lot of time together fishing, in the garage, or on bikes.”
After Sasha and Smith found the bottle at an Ocean City marina during one of their outings, they decided to pass it on. They used the same glass bottle and included the two dollar bills that were found inside. They covered the top with plastic, put the cap on it, and let the Atlantic Ocean do the rest.
It was Jan. 5 when an Irish couple spotted the bottle washed up on a beach near Donegal, on the northwestern coast of Ireland. Ciaran Marron and Rita Simmonds walked five miles to the end of the peninsula. They could have easily missed the bottle.
“It was surrounded by other things. There was lots of plastic junk, as there is on a lot of beaches nowadays,” Marron tells Bay Bulletin.
But Marron has been looked for a message in a bottle since he was a kid. So, Simmonds says, “he was more tuned into it than I was. It was like a surreal moment. It was awesome.”
The couple knew their discovery was delicate. “I could see condensation inside. I was pretty sure there was a message in it because it was tied up in a bow. So, I was terrified to try to get it out in case we damaged it. So, we were very, very disciplined and we didn’t open it,” Marron says.
Instead, they let it dry out overnight. And then they found the message inside, mostly intact.
“I remember that I wrote ‘I like riding a bike. I like fishing. And I like going to the beach. I like surfing and boogie boarding.’ I wrote that I have one brother and one sister,” Sasha recalls.
They also included a phone number to contact, which is now disconnected. Wayne Smith died before the bottle was found. But the couple found Sasha’s dad on Facebook and got in touch to share the news that they found his bottle.
“It’s come along at a good time for him, when he’s grieving [Smith’s death],” Simmonds says.
Does the Irish couple plan to put the bottle back in the ocean for another person to find? “The plastic top on it is really weather-beaten and it was actually already leaking. There was already moisture and fluid in the bottle when we found it. So, at the very least we have to replace the top,” Marron says.
Sasha would like the bottle to continue its journey. “It makes more friends around the world,” he says.
Marron has an even better idea. “The perfect end would be for Sasha to come to Donegal to where the message washed up on the beach. And maybe at that point, put the bottle back in again.”
It would be a movie-worthy ending to this true tale.