PALM COAST, Fla. – A Rhode Island woman says her message in a bottle was found on a Central Florida beach four years after she sent it to sea.
Athina McAleer, of Charlestown, told WJAR-TV she put her mother's ashes in a bottle along with a story about her after she died of cancer. McAleer said her fiance released the bottle in Georges Bank in 2013.
The bottle wound up in Palm Coast, where Stephanie Winnek said she found it Friday while working on Cinnamon Beach.
"It intrigued me. There was something in there and I wanted to know what it was," Winnek said.
She said the bottle looked weathered and had barnacles on the cork. When she looked closer, she noticed what appeared to be a rolled up note tied with a string inside.
Winnek brought the seashell-embellished bottle back home. Her husband had to break it just to get it open.
"It was a letter from a family in Rhode Island and a little bit of their mom's ashes," Winnek said.
The letter was written four years ago, about a woman named Cynthia Rounds who passed away from cancer. Her children said she never had the chance to travel.
The letter read in part: "We ask you to send the bottle back to sea, so she could keep on her travel."
The couple immediately called the daughter in Rhode Island.
"She was so excited and she couldn't believe that four years had passed and she had given up hope," Winnek said.
Winnek said she and her husband spread some of the ashes around their palm tree.
"Who wouldn't want to spend some time under a palm tree in Florida?" Winnek joked.
The rest of the ashes will be put in a new, hand-painted bottle, as the couple searches for someone with a boat to help ship it out to sea.
"It's a humbling experience," Winnek said. "I don't know if I found the bottle or if the bottle found me."
The couple told News 6 they'd like to get the new bottle decorated and sent out to sea within the next several days.
Winnek said she has since become friends with Round's daughter and is considered part of their family.