Brown Jug: Message Found a Beach Sends Mr. Sneiv Scrambling

Have you seen the movie Message In a Bottle starring Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn?  I have and I thought the plot to be somewhat far-fetched. That is until last month.

I was walking along the beach in Montauk in peaceful contemplation enjoying the solitude before the crazy summer season starts and I happened upon a bottle. That I was the beneficiary of such a find was somewhat unbelievable. It was really not a bottle but more of a brown jug of sorts and there was some type of algae type growth encapsulating a large portion of the jug.

My mind was contemplating that this could be some significant historical find. Perhaps it was from a long forgotten whaling vessel? After all, years ago Sag Harbor was a very noteworthy East Coast whaling port.

I took the jug home, placed a towel under it and it sat on the counter for the next several days. Each time I passed it I came up with another theory as to its origin. Maybe it was from a pirate ship or from the one of the Queen’s tall ships? Finally, with the skill of an untrained archeologist, I gently scraped away the centuries of sea accumulation to revealing the previously hidden exterior. To my dismay, all that was visible were two of the letters on what appeared to be two faded words. The first word was seven letters and began with a P and the second was four letters and ended with an N. Those were the only clues with which I had to work. It was obvious to me that these letters represented the name of the ship from which  the jug had become separated.

The Historical Society was unable to offer any suggestion as to the origin and had no such two-word catalogued ship that began with a P and end with an N.

Because of my above average intelligence, although most would debate that assertion, I was able to develop a plan that I supposed would yield the answers to my questions. So I gathered friends, who I knew to be good at word games and held a Wheel of Fortune Party at my house. “Seven letters, starts with P and four letters, ends in N.” My Game Show Experts were unable to solve the puzzle and one of them spilled potato chip dip on my couch.

In desperation I turned to what I call my “alcohol plan.” Often during periods of intense inebriation, I get extreme clarity. Like a mad artist, I am able to channel ideas and concepts that I would not have otherwise. It worked for Jackson Pollack.

At the liquor store I searched for the perfect inspiration. I decided on a large bottle of whiskey that had a tall ship on the label.  When I got home, I placed the brown jug and the bottle of whiskey on the coffee table in front of me. Four shots later I was hammered. And that’s when the wheels started turning. “What if I popped the cork to see what’s inside?’  With the precision of a drunk surgeon, I was able to remove the cork and inside, just like in the movies, I found a hand written note:

It read:

It is too late for me, for on the morrow or the next I will surely pass. Whoever finds this must carry the torch. I’ve seen it before in the homeland of my people. The governments seek to take our liberties. Outsiders will come and take our land, eat our crops and clog our land and water passageways. Whosoever finds this must unite the natives and resist the onslaught. Find a way and you will be blessed all the days of your life. Anna Bell

Now I was burdened by the notion that I had some responsibility related to having read these words. Should I start an East End Militia and be prepared for some type of terrorist-like attack? I could not rest until I had the answers to my questions. The next day, after my hangover had somewhat subsided, I broke down and contacted a Maritime Forensic Expert in Massachusetts, and asked him to interpret the find. I over-nighted him the jug and a check for $6,000.00.

Shortly thereafter I received back a certified letter:

Mr Sneiv,

I received your package and cashiers check. Mystery solved. Anna Bell was a long time resident of Montauk. She passed in 2010 at the age of 92. Originally from England, my sources tell me, she often verbalized her disappointment with the seasonal influx of tourists to the East End. My wife recognized the jug and I was able to confirm it is Pottery Barn circa 2009.


Robert Yardley

Welcome to Summer in the Hamptons! I am going to stay drunk until after Labor Day.







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