"We don't really want meaning from
our photographs. We seek
experiences to feel intensely alive."
Seeing & Looking
6000 Mile Message in a Bottle: The Courage of Every Day Life
Guillaume Rivest with Bentley Smith
( In Memory of Douglas R. Hansen)
Bentley Smith was sailing in the Bahamas. He found a message in a bottle.
He found it while walking with his dog and his husband on South Cat Island, at Robbin Creek. On their trip from Long Island that day, the live-aboard couple had not intended to anchor at that location. They decided to shorten their sail because winds began to blow from the north, the direction they'd planned to sail. The dropped anchor and rowed ashore at about 2:30 pm that afternoon, in March 2020.
On a rocky shoreline of the creek, enveloped by mangroves, Bentley saw a clear shiny bottle with paper inside. The cork was wet and very loose. It immediately fell out when he took the bottle from the sand. A wad of white paper inside was soaking wet. He took the message in the bottle back to the rowboat, out the creek and back to sailing catamaran Salty Paws.
The next day, after a short sail to Fernandez Bay, Bentley broke open the bottle to remove the paper. Floating the paper in fresh water, he could see a few lines of French, written in pencil, but the only clear text that he could make out was the name, Guillaume Rivest and a date of 27 Juin 2061. He looked on Facebook. There were 20 matching names. So, me sent a note using Facebook messenger and in less than 10 minutes, at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, he received a response.
The message was written by Guillaume Rivest, who four years previously was part of an 2016 historic re-enactment, sailing a square-rigged barq. The voyage was documented in a Canadian video production called La Grande Traversee. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6678790/). La Grande Traversée is film about the adventures of six men and four women, aged 23 to 44, who undertook the challenge of crossing the North Atlantic by sail aboard L'Espérance, a three-masted schooner, in colonial era conditions. The film shows Mr. Rivest, on the widow maker bowsprit in period costume, composing his letter, rolling it up, putting it into the bottle, and then launching it into the sea off Madeira Island, 3600 miles away from the Bahamas (https://youtu.be/haOfgf6Wd5Q).
The fusion of the bottle's discovery, it's drifting on ocean currents, and the film footage were like a rare chemical convergence from which life originally emerged. You might gather the same materials and order their sequence, but you would never be able to duplicate the next part of the story.
Guillaume Rivest added to the story, writing in French on Facebook:
"Yesterday, something amazing happened to me!
Almost 4 years ago, during La Grande Crossing, I wrote a message in a bottle that I threw off the madeiras Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
Yesterday, four years later, by the greatest chance, I get a message from a guy named Bentley Smith telling me he found a bottle with my name inside. No contact in common, I immediately think of a scam, but it sends me in the seconds following a picture of my name, written by myself on a paper in very bad condition.
Bentley found my bottle on the coast of a bay in the Bahamas islands. Living on his sailboat, he had thrown the ink in it to protect himself from the wind. That's when he saw the reflection of the glass on the edge of the water.
The cap had lost its volume and contract letting the water in. The message was in very bad condition only allows Bentley to read one thing: my name. After contacting about twenty Guillaume Rivest, he finally found me.
When they say there's no chance in life! Imagine!!!
The bottle travelled almost 6000 km, for almost four years. She didn't break, she was found and by any miracle, the only thing that was still legible on the message was my name!
Mr. Rivest then posted an English translation of his French message in the bottle. During his crossing for The Grand Traversee, here is what Guillaume Rivest wrote:
Know that this particular bottle you found contains a particular message. A message of courage and hope.
This bottle will have settled in a destination unknown to it at the time of departure. Place where she now delivers her message. His journey is reminiscent of that of the French colonists who left their mother country to settle in America.
In their wooden bottle, push by the wind, these settlers carried a message of hope. Hope for a new life.
Like this message, these settlers did not know their final destination. The unknown, the fear and the doubt had to gnaw them constantly. Despite this, their courage and perseverance have contributed to making the French fact in North America much more than an anecdote.
Newly landed on Aboriginal land, these settlers had much to learn. It is through contact with first nations that they have been able to survive on these hostile and yet, welcoming lands.
I, Guillaume Rivest, one of the 10 colonists of La Grande Traversée, agreed to relive this same journey in the most authentic way possible. This adventure is a tribute to my ancestors, but also a tribute to the First Nations who welcomed us to their land.
The difficulty I have in living this adventure is only a fraction of that experienced by my ancestors.
Wherever you are a reader, know that courage does not only manifest itself in an act of bravery. It is manifested in everyday life, through actions and decisions that sometimes seem trivial, but that will have immense repercussions on the world.
The courage of everyday life is true bravery.
[ Dedicated to the loving memory of Douglas R. Hansen (1945 - 2020) who lived with true bravery ]. La Grande Traversée
Photos and Writings by Jim Austin Jimages