Message in a bottle forges unlikely friendship

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's the stuff dreams and movies are made of. A message in a bottle, at sea for more than a decade makes it's way thousands of miles back to the man who wrote it in Gulfport, Mississippi, with a Bahamian pit stop first.

Paul McGill put a note it in an old wine bottle, stuck the cork way down hoping to keep it waterproof. The message asks whoever finds it to contact him.

Then, Gulfport CPA and avid fisherman, tossed the bottle off his boat near the Chandeleur Islands in Louisiana to see if anything would happen. That was June 2, 1979.

Then one day he received a letter from a woman named Joyann Wilchcombe Stuart, it read.

"I always wished I would find a bottle like this. I am so excited to write to you, I don't know quite where to start, my darling boyfriend Solomon Saunders found a bottle containing a letter from yourself on Inauga, the southern most Island in the Bahamas on February 9th, 1995."

That is 16 years at sea, a 1,200 mile journey to finally rest on the crystal white sands of a tiny, lush, tropical island.

McGill points to a map saying, "It had to go around the Florida Keys and then between Cuba and the Bahamas. It could have gone other places; you know the gulf stream makes a loop."

Another 16 years passed until Paul McGill decided to tell this story in a book about his many adventures in life. So, two weeks ago, he took his whole family, grandkids and all, to the remote place inhabited by 15,000 donkeys and just 1,000 people.

McGill said, "That's some of the nicest people we've ever met, friendly, courteous, helpful!"

Their taxi driver was so excited about their reason for visiting, she told the media.

McGill said "Front page, front page, that's big news there."

The bottle man and his family were instant stars.

He said, "We'd be in a store somewhere, and some people would say I saw you on T. V.; I read about you in the newspaper!"

And the note that started it all was returned to the McGill now tattered, torn and barely legible. But the whereabouts of the bottle remained a mystery until another letter arrived to explain.

Stuart wrote, "Guess what? We broke the bottle, hope all is well, keep in touch."

If you're wondering about the McGill's reunion with the ones who found the bottle, they live in Nassau now, and couldn't make the trip to Inauga while they were there.

But the McGills will tell them through Facebook to watch this story from the Bahamas, here on

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