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How A Man's Message In A Bottle Met A Kindred Spirit Miles Away

A few years ago, mysterious green bottles started washing up on the New England coast.

Each one contained a message from Ken Baker, a crane operator who lives in the Scituate, Mass. So far, Baker has thrown 223 of these bottles into the Atlantic Ocean.

The journey of Baker's bottles starts in his basement. They originally started in 2012 when his wife bought some bottles of San Pellegrino water.

"I used to clean 'em and wash 'em, and put 'em on my fence posts outside. I think my neighbors thought I was a raging alcoholic for a while," he says.

The green glass reminded him of pirates and castaways. So he and his two teenage kids rolled up short messages inside – just a few lines — to toss off the local breakwater.

"I usually just hop up here and run down the seawall. Sometimes I get down there, and you have to time the waves so you don't get wet," he says.

After the first batch of bottles, Baker started hearing from strangers.

One was Rachel Collard, who lives on Cape Cod. She found her bottle on a nearby beach in Wellfleet, Mass., with her husband, Chris.

"We went to our favorite beach. We always try and pick up a little trash, so we would have picked that bottle up anyway. But Chris said, 'Oh my God, there's a message in there,' " Collard says.

Baker has gotten emails from a kindergarten teacher, a national guardsman, a marine biologist.

Some bottles washed up on Cape Cod, 50 miles east. Two ended up in New York. One even made it to New Brunswick, Canada.

"I've had a hard time finding a map that goes all the way from Canada to Long Island, to put pins in," he says.

As of this month, Baker is going to need an even bigger map.

"On July 25, 2014, I threw bottle number 79, and that's the one that made it to Cullenstown, Ireland," he says.

"It was Jan. 2. The kids went beach combing," says Colm O'Grady, automotive technician.

His son and nephew recently found one of Baker's bottles and ended up on the cover of the local newspaper.

"The message inside was written by Ken and Suzanne Baker, from Scituate, Mass., which is often referred to as the most Irish town in America," O'Grady says, reading from the article.

The Bakers are both Irish-American.

"The bottle went home, I guess," Baker says.

And O'Grady is kind of a kindred spirit. The ocean is his nearest neighbor.

"I can hear the sea lapping off the shore here. When I look out now, there's 11 miles of coastline, and that's where it came in," he says.

He's old fashioned and recently bought his first smart phone. He's been using it to email Baker. They're pen pals now.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Daniel A. Gross