Message in a Bottle Has a Grand Adventure

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The mysterious blue envelope arrived in the mail at Nolan Brahmey's house in Fairfax one day last month.

"Nolan," his mom called, "you got a letter from France."

She was puzzled, and so was he. "I don't know anybody from France," said Nolan, 9.

Inside was a eight-inch postcard of a French fort. The writing on the back -- in English -- said that a water bottle with a note inside had been found on a beach in France. The note had Nolan's name and address on it and asked whoever found it to contact him.

The bottle had been at sea nearly five years.

It was Nolan's grandfather, Thomas Garnett, who solved the mystery. In May 2002 he and his wife were traveling to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liner when he put the note in the bottle and tossed it in the Atlantic. He never told his daughter or Nolan, who was 4 at the time.

On Feb. 20 of this year, the bottle washed ashore at Fouras beach near La Rochelle, a 1,000-year-old seaport 300 miles southwest of Paris.

Guillaume Martin and his grandfather, Guy, were walking on the beach that day. Guillaume (pronounced ghee-YOME, it's French for "William") is 7. He and his brother Adrien, 5, were spending two weeks at the seashore with their grandparents, enjoying the lovely non-winter-like weather.

"Oh, what a surprise," Guy Martin told KidsPost in an e-mail in French. "Guillaume and I spied on the sand, at water's edge, a small bottle." A slip of paper inside had the words "Please open" written on it.

Guillaume Martin found a bottle with a note inside on a beach in France.
Guillaume Martin found a bottle with a note inside on a beach in France.(Family Photo)
"Without hesitation, we knew that we had to write" back, Guy Martin said. But he and Guillaume had many questions: Who is Nolan? Is he young or old? Is this his home address?

The Martins bought a postcard of Fort Boyard and mailed it to Virginia. They included their e-mail address, so Nolan's grandfather contacted them. "Then Guillaume and I understood how the story of the bottle was even more wonderful, in that Nolan was a young boy . . . just like Guillaume," Guy Martin said.

Nolan's family calculated that the bottle traveled more than 2,066 nautical miles on its 1,742-day journey -- or 1.2 miles a day.

Both boys' grandfathers hope the story doesn't end here. "Maybe [they] will become buddies?" Guy Martin said. "Maybe, one day, they'll get together."

Nolan says he would love that. His grandfather already is planning the trip to France.

But not inside a bottle.

-- Marylou Tousignant

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