East Durham couple shocked to get reply to message in a bottle that they threw overboard during Atlantic Ocean cruise

Clint Buffington with the bottle
Clint Buffington with the bottle

A COUPLE who threw a message in a bottle overboard from the cruise ship they were holidaying on where stunned to receive a reply more than a year later.

Gwen and Clinton Bennett threw the plastic bottle, containing a letter, overboard in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Clinton and Gwen Bennett

Clinton and Gwen Bennett

They were returning home after a three-week cruise around the British Virgin Islands and decided to launch the bottle from the back of the ship in what Gwen described as a “Titanic” moment.

This was on March 13, last year and the trip, on a P&O Ventura ship, was to celebrate the couple’s 32nd wedding anniversary and Clinton’s birthday.

But three months later, American Clint Buffington – who has made a hobby of finding messages in bottles – stumbled across it while holidaying with his parents on a remote island in the British West Indies.

Clint, who lives in Salt Lake City, in Utah, says the chances of someone finding the bottle are slim as the island is mainly inhabited by iguanas and feral dogs.

Gwen and Clinton's letter

Gwen and Clinton's letter

He contacted the Mail this week in a bid to trace Gwen and Clinton, although their address was on the letter, which had a map of the British Virgin Islands on the back.

The Mail visited the couple at their home in Peterlee to announce that the bottle had been found.

A flabbergasted Gwen, 49, said: “It’s a one in a million chance – I didn’t think anyone would find it.
“We went to the back of 
the ship, like Titanic, it was dead funny.”

Clinton, 52, who runs The Family Cobbler, in Peterlee, and also opened Gwen’s Family Cobbler in Seaham, for Gwen, added: “We hadn’t long been left St Lucia and were sailing back to Southampton.

The washed-up bottle

The washed-up bottle

“I’m shocked and flabbergasted.

“I was just thinking about it the other night actually.
“As we’d been to the Virgin Islands, I joked Richard Branson might find it and give us a free holiday.”

The couple, parents to Clinton junior, 29, Krystal, 26, Coreana, 24 and Chelsea, 21, who also have eight grandchildren, with one on the way, said they would love to meet Clint.

They hadn’t even told their children about the bottle, so their sons and daughters were astounded when the Mail turned up to announce the news.

Clint, a college writing instructor, musician and small-scale farmer, said: “The bottle wasn’t in the water for a crazily long period of time, but really it’s a darn good thing I found it when I did!

“Plastic bottles fall apart pretty quickly in the ocean and sun, and also, this thing was on an uninhabited island.

“I have a feeling that if I hadn’t found it, no one would have.”

He added: “The most rewarding part is meeting the people whose messages I’ve found.”

He has found two from British men so far and made contact and he hopes to do the same with Gwen and Clinton.