Hurricane Humberto's waves wash mystery Jesus plaque ashore near Melbourne Beach

Professional surfer, daughter found plaque while picking up litter

By Rick Neale, Florida Today

(Credit: Florida Today)

Bobbing amid then-Tropical Storm Humberto's swells, a wooden wall plaque bearing Jesus Christ's image reached the beach just as former professional surfer Bryan Hewitson and his daughter, Olivia, approached carrying bags of litter.

"It was still wet. It had just washed up," Bryan recalled from their beach cleanup walk shortly after sunrise Saturday.

"We had both of our hands full. And I was like, 'Hey honey, just look on the horizon. Look how beautiful it is.' We weren't looking at the ground anymore because we couldn't carry any more trash," he said.

"I just kind of looked down for one second, and I was like, 'Hey, what's that?' We walk over, and it was sitting face-up," he said.

"Wow. If that's not your sign: Jesus is there saying, 'Hey, thank you for cleaning up the earth,' " he said.

The wooden wall plaque features a portrait of Jesus, the inscription Corazón de Jesús (Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic devotion) and two roses. Written in cursive near the bottom: Piriápolis, a small city on Uruguay's Atlantic coast.

The Hewitsons now seek information on the plaque's possible owner and history. They discovered the religious object about 7 a.m. Saturday just south of Juan Ponce de León Landing, a Brevard County-owned park south of Melbourne Beach.

"We'd love to know where it came from. Did it come from the Bahamas?" Bryan asked.

"I looked up the name on there, and it was a city in Uruguay. So maybe somebody in the Bahamas went there and brought it back? I don't know," he said.

"It'd be cool if somebody had lost it in a hurricane, and it floated over here and we could get it back to them," he said.

Bryan Hewitson, an Indialantic resident, surfed contests around the globe on the ASP World Tour in 1999. Olivia, 9, is a fourth-grader at Indialantic Elementary.

"I think it's really cool, because not a lot of people find this on the beach. I was very excited to find it," Olivia said.

"I think it was from a really far place," she said.

Then-Tropical Storm Humberto was churning about 30 miles east-northeast of Great Abaco Island during their Saturday beach walk, the National Hurricane Center reported.

That day, meteorologists at the Melbourne National Weather Service station warned of dangerous beach conditions for inexperienced swimmers, fast-moving showers and gusts up to 35 mph.

After Hurricane Irma's rain bands struck the Space Coast in September 2017, a number of unusual items washed ashore:

• An unoccupied 45-foot sailboat with mannequin passengers from Key West ran aground at Spessard Holland South Beach Park.

The boat's owner was an inmate at the Monroe County Detention Facility. Heavy equipment operators demolished the "ghost ship" in January. 

• A submerged dugout canoe emerged from the Indian River Lagoon in Cocoa.

Radiocarbon dating showed there is a 50 percent chance the tree used to construct the canoe died between 1640 and 1680. Meanwhile, titanium levels show the boat's blue paint may date to the early 1900s.

The canoe is now on display at Cape Canaveral City Hall.

• A green wine bottle containing a message written in Spanish was discovered by an Indialantic couple.

The message had been cast to sea by Chila Lynn, a Cuban R&B singer who dreams of performing in the United States. The letter went on display at El Ambia Cubano in downtown Melbourne.

Bryan Hewitson asks anyone with information on the Jesus wooden wall plaque to call him at 321-525-2755.

Copyright 2019 Florida Today