Message in a Bottle
In May 2018, I launched a 21st century version of a message in a bottle (MIB). My quixotic quest: to promote my fictional memoir, Sweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional Bastard, via a floating book club. The package, so the theory goes, would visit various ports of call, spreading good cheer and making new friends along the way.
The MIB is a watertight polycarbonate lunchbox loaded up with my novel, a travel log, a list of predictions, and a GPS device to chart its course. In a note, I asked finders to read the book, update the log, make a prediction, and then recast the package back upon the waters, to be carried by the wind and waves to the next reader.
As of early April 2019, the MIB had traveled seven legs over ten-plus months, traversing 83 sea miles and 714 land miles. It's been in the possession of at least four individuals and has visited three states.
Leg 1: Barnstable, Mass > East Dennis, Mass.
I launched the MIB at dawn from Sandy Neck Beach. Thirty-six hours later, Paul M. of Dennis, Mass. fished it from the brine at Sea St. Beach. He recounted in an email: "I rescued the package from about 1 ft. of water, floating dangerously close to a large rock. When I presented it to my wife, who was waiting safely on dry land, she immediately told me to get rid of it: 'It could be a bomb!'"
Paul ignored his wife's advice and eagerly tore into the package:
"I pulled out the book and was a little taken aback by the title and scary clown illustration. Clown faces tend to freak me out."
Leg 2: East Dennis, Mass. > Truro, Mass.
After reading the book, Paul passed it along to a few relatives: "[It's] now circulating through my family members like the NORO virus," he wrote.
When the time arrived for relaunch, Paul approached it like a covert military operation: "I am in a frenetic planning stage and will be closely monitoring upcoming sea and atmospheric conditions." After the successful operation, Paul provided a photo of the "launch supervisor" who accompanied him on his mission.
The MIB drifted 23 miles over 3 days, making landfall at Fisher Beach in Truro, Mass. on 13 June. It spent several hours on the sand, before being found by "K.B.C.," who carried it to a cottage a few hundred yards inland.
Leg 3: Truro, Mass. > Yarmouth, Maine
The MIB spent the next 2 and 1/2 months vacationing with K.B.C. on Cape Cod before being packed up and driven north just before Labor Day weekend. The cargo arrived at Cousins Island, a village of Yarmouth, Maine, on August 30th.
Prior to relaunch, K.B.C. added his prediction to the sheet. He wrote: By the year 2020, "balloons will be manufactured with biodegradable materials, eliminating tons of harmful trash from the oceans."
Leg 4: Yarmouth, Maine > Portland, Maine
The MIB was relaunched by K.B.C. on 2 Sept. 2018 off the west coast of Cousins Island and appears to have drifted southwest to Portland, Maine. The path shown on the map is speculative, because by the time the GPS logged its position the next day, the MIB was already inland in downtown Portland. (To conserve battery life, I had remotely reset the GPS to report its location only once per 24 hours, which led to some gaps in the itinerary.)
Over the ensuring autumn months, the MIB shuttled frequently between a residence on Sherman Street in Portland and the Maine Medical Partners building in Scarborough. During this timeframe, the presumptive medical professional residing at Sherman Street did not initiate contact. Indeed, as the holiday season approached, I began to think the MIB was permanently grounded. But then ...
Leg 5: Portland, Maine > Greenfield, New York
... on Dec. 16, the GPS suddenly sprang to life. The MIB beelined it 267 miles west, arriving in Greenfield, New York, a small town next to Saratoga Springs.
Little is known of this possessor. Christmas came and went with no contact, as did the entire month of January. By the third week of February, nagging doubts once again arose as to the viability of the scheme. The MIB was a couple of hundred miles from the ocean, and the possessor was maintaining radio silence.
Leg 6: Greenfield, New York > Weymouth, Mass.
I made a last-ditch attempt to salvage the plan: With the GPS still faithfully filing its daily report, I sussed out the postal address and sent a letter to the occupant: "Hi. Jerome Segundo here. I’m the guy who wrote that quirkily (some might say “obscenely”) titled book in your possession ...
I asked my correspondent to kindly return the MIB's contents in an included postage-paid envelope, and I threw in a $10 Starbucks gift card as a not-so-subtle bribe.
The GPS soon indicated that my desperate plea was heard. On successive days, it reported its position at a postal facility in Springfield, Mass., followed by its delivery in Weymouth, Mass.
The package arrived with the GPS device in fine shape, along with the prediction sheet, somewhat tattered but still legible.
Leg 7: Scituate, Mass. > in the Atlantic, 4.7 miles off the coast
The reclaimed MIB was relaunched on March 3rd from Minot Beach in Scituate, Mass. A late winter storm blew and the seas churned as I tossed the package into the waves just before midnight.
Post-launch, the GPS fell silent for more than three weeks, suggesting a tragic end, before finally "phoning home" on March 26th from the waters just off Gloucester, a journey of about 22 miles as the fish swims.
After that transmission, the device again went mute for another 12 days before checking in on April 7th. Surprisingly, the MIB had "pulled a U-ee" (in local parlance), and now signaled its position 4.7 miles off the coast of Scituate, from whence it came.
Data gaps preclude a definitive analysis, but it appears that the MIB is presently caught in a clockwise circular current in Massachusetts Bay, awaiting rescue by a fisherperson or recreational boater.
Last update: 7 April 2019
More to follow ...