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Message on Board

Message on Board

“Hi, I’m Connor Nelson from Jakarta, Indonesia,” read a letter crammed in a wine bottle bobbing just off the coast of Great Tobago. “If you find this bottle, please tell me where you found it. Thanks!” The inquisitive 10-year-old’s message was echoed by his seven-year-old sister, Haley, who wrote, “If you find this bottle, please listen to what my brother said.” Not only did Cane Garden Bay resident Charles Kirchmier listen, he became inspired.


The floating message in a bottle found Charles as he was enjoying a day out on his fishing boat. The random occurrence surprised him, but it also sparked an interest in the age-old tradition of bottle messaging. “I thought to myself, ‘How cool,’” he said during an interview on Cane Garden Bay beach, as we sat at the happy table outside The Elm restaurant. “I was inspired by these kids, but I wanted to do something neat on my own—something that would be different than the standard message in a bottle; so, I made this boat and put the message here on top of it.”

Charles’ message was simple. Atop a toy sailboat he made from refurbished material, he scrawled out his e-mail address and the word “REWARD” beneath it. He also carved out the coordinates of the Bermuda location from where it would be launched. The reward, he said, would be a care package of significant BVI memorabilia he believes would represent the territory.

From Bermuda, Charles’ friend, who goes by the title Captain Val, will send the tiny sailboat on a journey they confidently suppose will take it across the Atlantic gulf stream clear to the coast of Ireland or Wales. The boats are first cut out of scrap wood, left outside, and bent in a vice through the use of rain and sunlight. The hollow mold is then filled with Styrofoam and balanced with a led keel. The sails are made from scrap sail material and attached with fishing wire. After meticulous engineering, and numerous test runs, Charles is confident that his model sailboat will stand up against strong currents and rough weather.

“We’ve had it out right here in [Cane Garden Bay] and it actually does everything it’s supposed to do,” he said. “And stands up even after getting pounded in the surf. And when it gets in the wind, it actually keels over to the side; when it gets too far keeled over, the sail releases and allows it to stand up. It’s amazing that it can keep in a straight line like it does.”



His fascination with the toy boats has drawn Charles to this unique hobby. Currently, the retired BVI homeowner is making a second boat that he plans to drop off Anegada sometime this summer when he hypothesizes that south winds will push clear across the Atlantic in a similar fashion.

“It’s my version of a message in a bottle,” he said. “It’s something fun; I’ve never heard of doing something with a little sailboat like this. … I hope I don’t get dumb enough to try to build a big one.”

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