INDIALANTIC, Fla. – While Hurricane Irma's gusts were striking the Space Coast, Nikki Snow and her boyfriend, Allen Gibson, ventured outdoors to check out the beach and shoot Snapchat and Facebook Live videos.
That's when they discovered a green wine bottle, sealed with a cork on the sand. Inside was a message written in Spanish — that had been cast to sea in July by Chila Lynn, a 25-year-old Cuban R&B singer who dreams of performing in the United States, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
"We were right down over there past that tiki, and we walked too far and it was getting way too windy. So we started running back, like holding each other," Snow recalled, standing on the beach a bit north of DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Melbourne Beach Oceanfront.
"And we stumbled on a bottle. We both picked it up — both saw it at the same time — ran back and opened it when we got home," Snow said.
The bottle survived the roughly 400-mile voyage from Havana to Indialantic, floating northward in the Gulf Stream until Irma's violent rain bands pushed it ashore.
The couple found the bottle the afternoon of Sept. 10. Written by Lynn on both sides of a sheet of notebook paper, dated July 22, the message in the bottle is a prayer to Yemayá, an Afro-Cuban water goddess.
"I’m fighting, mother, tooth and nail to be able to realize my dreams, you know that more than anything in the world I long to succeed with my music," the message states, according to Anna Montoya, a Spanish instructor at the Florida Institute of Technology. FLORIDA TODAY asked FIT officials to translate Lynn's letter for this story.
"I’m an artist, you know, since I opened my eyes, music lives in me and I’m putting everything in to it and then some in order to be ever closer to getting to the top and make my dreams come true," Lynn's message continues.
"I’ve had many obstacles, my heart has been broken a ton of times. I lost the roof over my head and almost my way, but I’m trying to get back my house, my direction and my progress," the message states.
"It's like a private prayer. It's special, something unique," Montoya said. "I'm very lucky to have been one of the first people to read it."
Born in Havana, Lynn is a classically trained pianist and singer. Her debut album "Real Woman" was released in 2012 by EMI Music Spain. Her second album "Amor y Miel" was released on a different label last year in Cuba. Her recording contract expires next month — and she hopes to secure an international record deal.
Lynn lives in Havana's Nuevo Vedado neighborhood, and she released the bottle at Our Lady of Regla, a historic seaside church.
“I wrote my letter in my home, I went to Regla, and I threw it. I was there with my grandmother. It’s funny, because she said, ‘Oh my gosh. You threw it very close to the land, no? It’s never going to make it too far,’" Lynn said during a phone interview.
"So imagine my grandmother’s face when I told her. I said, ‘My bottle is in Florida,’” she said.
Gibson works as chef and kitchen manager at El Ambia Cubano in downtown Melbourne, and he brought the letter to work after Irma. Alfredo Hernandez, a musician who owns the restaurant, is a Cuban native who defected in 1994.
Hernandez emailed Lynn — who initially became upset because she thought someone in Cuba was playing a prank on her. The two have remained in contact. Hernandez hopes to arrange concerts so Lynn can perform in Melbourne, perhaps at the Henegar Center for the Arts or King Center for the Performing Arts.
Friday, Hernandez placed Lynn's framed letter and wine bottle on display on a dining room wall inside El Ambia Cubano alongside his small altar to Ochún, the Cuban Virgin of Charity.
"I told Chila, the virgin put this letter in my hand for a reason," Hernandez said.
“It’s very in touch with the virgin. There was a hurricane — a huge one — and still the bottle made it. I think it’s a story about faith," Lynn said.
"I want to go to Florida. I want to go there, because I think it's a sign from the virgin. And another curious thing is, I was thinking about making a contact for a first tour in the U.S. (to) go see how my music works there," she said.
"This clarifies everything. I'm totally doing it. I'm totally doing it. I just need to meet some people to make it possible," she said.
Snow is a senior business major at Eastern Florida State College. The Indialantic resident works as a bartender at Off The Traxx in downtown Melbourne and Charlie & Jake's Barbecue in Indian Harbour Beach.
"I think it's pretty incredible, you know? You find something like this, and nine times out of 10 you're never going to know who it is. And you're just going to either read it, throw it back, or show some friends. But we found the person. We were able to contact her," Snow said.
"I think it's pretty awesome for her, so I'm glad we found it," she said.
Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RickNeale1