OCEAN CITY– Ten months after his message in a bottle washed up on a beach in Ireland, a local boy made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to meet the couple who found it.
Sasha Yonyak, the Ocean City resident who put a message in a bottle that eventually washed ashore in Donegal, traveled to Ireland last month to meet the couple who found the glass bottle.
“The story of the message in a bottle came to a happy end with a 10-day trip to Ireland,” said Vlad Yonyak, Sasha’s father.
Belfast residents Rita Simmonds and Ciaran Marron were walking on Magheraroarty Beach in January when they stumbled upon a glass bottle. Upon noticing it contained a note and two U.S. one-dollar bills, they took it home and let it dry by their fireplace overnight. When they carefully spread open the yellowed piece of paper after removing it from the bottle, they found a 2019 note from an 11-year-old Ocean City boy. The letter described his hobbies as well as his friends and family and asks the finder to call him.
Though the number was disconnected, Simmonds was able to find the Yonyak family through Facebook. They let Sasha know the bottle had washed up and spoke to him about their life in Ireland, inviting him to visit so they could show him the spot the bottle washed up.
With the help of a GoFundMe campaign, Sasha and his father were able to travel to Ireland for 10 days in October. The first half of their trip, they visited with Simmonds and Marron in Belfast, who showed them the beach where the bottle washed up. That was meaningful for Sasha, as he sent off the message in the bottle with the help of his friend Wayne Smith, who passed away in 2021.
“It was an emotional trip for Sasha who is grieving the loss of his friend Wayne who passed in August last year,” Simmonds said. “He felt the bottle locked in so many memories.”
She said Yonyak gathered some rocks to mark the spot the bottle washed up and enjoyed all the other activities young beachgoers do, hunting for crabs and exploring the dunes.
They also showed him local historic sites and how to use their telescope to pick up sightings of Jupiter and Saturn.
“We did have many laughs and adventures in those five days including a swim in the Atlantic Ocean,” Simmonds said.
After spending some time with Simmonds and Marron, the Yonyaks visited Dublin and London.
“It was a new experience for us,” Vlad Yonyak said. “A lot of people kept asking us if we were ever going to meet the people who found the bottle. We took it as a chance to visit a new country and for Sasha to see a new place.”