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Florida Couple Finds Heartbreaking Message In A Bottle That Sparks Incredible Journey To Find Sender

message in a bottle florida beach

A message in a bottle was thrown into the Atlantic Ocean, containing a deeply personal prayer, waiting to be answered. Somehow, the green glass bottle managed to make its way onto the sands of a Florida beach, washing ashore at the height of Hurricane Irma in 2017, where it was discovered by a young couple.

But although the two couldn’t understand the message they had found, when they pushed forward to discover its meaning, they managed to uncover a series of incredible coincidences — setting off a chain of events that could well be on the way to changing one young woman’s life.

1. Batten Down The Hatches

In September 2017, the state of Florida was in full emergency mode. Hurricane Irma was on its way, and was the most powerful storm on record in the open Atlantic. By the time it had reached the northeastern Caribbean islands, it had caused catastrophe damage. Then, it headed for the United States.

hurricane irma message in a bottle

With Irma barreling toward Florida’s shores and traveling northwards, millions of people had evacuated in the state’s largest mass evacuation, and electric facilities were going down one by one. And yet, despite the impending danger, two Floridians in the state’s Brevard County went in the exact opposite direction that they should have: towards the water.

2. Storm Chasers

Nikki Snow, an Eastern Florida State College business student, took her boyfriend Allen Gibson for a chance to witness the approach of Hurricane Irma on September 10, 2017. They journeyed east from their home in Melbourne, Florida, to the barrier island separating them from the open waters of the Atlantic.

nikki snow allen gibson message in a bottle

Facebook/Allen Gibson

At around 3:00 p.m., the young couple strolled down the empty stretch of sand towards one of the tiki huts set up along the shore. As the incoming hurricane winds began to pick up on Indialantic Beach, they watched and waited. But they found far more than they had bargained for.

3. Escaping The Storm

Nikki and Allen were taking pictures and videotaping on the beach, looking out to sea, excited by the danger looming on the horizon. But as winds began to rapidly increase in ferocity, they realized they had walked entirely too far. The couple figured it was high time to end their outing and seek higher ground.

florida message in a bottle


Running as they tried to hold each other to keep from falling over as the storm’s intensity only heightened, they made their way back up the shore. Just before they left the beach, though, they stumbled across something out of place. It caught their eye — and they couldn’t leave it ignored.

4. Put A Cork In It

There was a bright green wine bottle sticking up out of the sand on Indialantic Beach. Both Nikki and Allen happened to notice it at the exact same moment, and went over to collect it. It wasn’t just a bit of garbage left by a beachgoer; it had a cork in it.

allen gibson nikki snow message in a bottle

Facebook/Allen Gibson

There was a letter inside. The couple had stumbled across a real-life message in a bottle. But they couldn’t read it at that moment, as they had to get away from the storm’s ravaging winds. So they took the bottle and the note back home to the other side of the island to read.

5. Message In A Bottle

Back at home in Melbourne and hunkering down from Hurricane Irma as it passed through their area, Nikki and Allen extricated the letter from the bottle, eager to see what it might say. However, unlike many legends of messages in a bottle, the young couple found that they weren’t actually able to read the note.

florida message in a bottle

Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today

The problem was, this message in a bottle happened to have been written in Spanish, and neither of them could understand it. Nikki took to Facebook, posting a copy of the text and hoping some of her friends could translate. But Allen had an even better idea — that would eventually bring them to discover the letter’s writer.

6. El Ambia Cubano

Allen happened to work as a cook at a Cuban restaurant in Melbourne called El Ambia Cubano. He took the letter to work, and showed it to his restaurant’s bilingual kitchen manager, Alfredo Hernandez Froment, hoping he might have a crack at it. When approached, Alfredo was eager to see what Allen had stumbled upon.

message in a bottle

Facebook/Allen Gibson

Thankfully, the writing was still intact with no water damage, having been completely sealed within the bottle. When Alfredo read the text from this mysterious message in a bottle, he was left astounded. As it turned out, the message had not been set afloat casually. It was asking for help. And those who found it never could have expected who the sender was.

7. Deciphering The Message

Through her own efforts on the Internet, Nikki had managed to get in touch with a Spanish instructor from the Florida Institute of Technology, who translated the message in a bottle for her. At the same time, Allen’s coworker at the restaurant read the rolled-up letter and explained its contents to him.

message in a bottle


Both sources relayed to Nikki and Allen an amazing story. It was a letter personally addressed to someone, talking about heartbreak, and various attempts to overcome mounting obstacles. It was from a girl trying to get her life and her career together. And Alfredo instantly identified with her for a particular reason.

8. The Bottle’s Origins

From the language clues and the name on the letter, Alfredo was able to discover who had penned it and where they came from. She was a young woman living on a tropical island, desperately hoping to improve her life. As she wrote, she poured her struggles into her letter, addressed to ‘mother’.

florida cuba message in a bottle

Florida Today

She had rolled it up and stuffed it into a bottle, sealed it with her deepest wishes and emotions, and cast it into the ocean. She’d hoped her prayers might be answered, as the letter was intended for one being alone. But the events that would unfold from the seemingly simple act of sending a message in a bottle would end up defying her wildest expectations.

9. The Bottle’s Journey

It could have merely washed back up on shore not far from where it had been initially thrown, but the message in a bottle had fared an impressive journey before it reach the Florida shore. Carried by the currents of the Atlantic, the green wine bottle made its way through the ocean for hundreds of miles.

message in a bottle florida beach

But its route was not at all the one that the young woman who had penned the letter had intended for it. And its odyssey was about to be disrupted by one of the most massive storms on record. But despite it all, two unlikely worlds were about to collide.

10. La Habana

Far south, in the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood of Havana, Cuba, 25-year-old Chila Lynn was feeling trapped. An R&B singer and pianist, she had found success at a very young age, as the Spanish-language singing voice for the lead princess Tiana in the dubbed version of Disney’s film “The Princess and the Frog.”

chila lynn message in a bottle

Woman Magazine Awards 2012

Chila’s first album, Real Woman, came out in 2012, released by EMI Music Spain. Since then, however, she felt that despite her efforts, her trajectory toward achieving her dreams had stagnated and she was unable to make things move. She needed help, so she looked far beyond the shores of her home.

11. Chila’s Dilemma

Chila wanted her career as a singer to go much farther than where it was at the time. Her successes were simply not enough for her, and she was hoping to take her talents internationally. She wanted to be taken seriously as a respected artist, and for her name to be known.

chila lynn message in a bottle

Cuba Agencia Cubana de Noticias

So she wrote down her prayer on a note and cast it away. “I’ve had many obstacles, my heart has been broken a ton of times,” the letter read. “I lost the roof over my head and almost my way, but I’m trying to get back my house, my direction and my progress.” But the intended recipient for her message in a bottle was not who one might expect.

12. Hopes And Dreams

To the subject of her pained letter, Chila wrote, “I’m an artist, you know, since I opened my eyes, music lives in me.” Chila took her note, placed it inside a wine bottle, and took it to pray at the church of Our Lady of Regla, a lovely early 19th century building with a red-brick roof.

church cuba message in a bottle


She went by the church, asked that her wish might come true, and threw the bottle into the warm, tropical waters of Havana Bay. There, it began its journey, over 360 miles north to Melbourne, Florida, where Alfredo Hernandez happened to find it. And he knew what he had to do.

13. The Ties That Bind

As it turned out, Chila’s letter could not have come to a better person. One of more than a million refugees since the Cuban Revolution, Alfredo Hernandez himself had defected from Cuba in 1994 and came to Florida. Not only did he share a nationality and language with Chila, but they had a similar background.

Chila Lynn mesage in a bottle


In his spare time when he wasn’t working at his restaurant, Alfredo was also a musician. As such, he had some tricks of the trade up his sleeve that he hoped could help Chila Lynn. He wanted to use his contacts to help her achieve her dream. But first, he reached out to her.

14. Across The Waves

Alfredo managed to find Chila Lynn’s email, and he reached out to the singer to let her know that he had found her message in a bottle. He likely expected she would be overjoyed to receive his note, particularly because a fellow Spanish speaker and Cuban had come across her note.

message in a bottle

Because of the raging floodwaters of Hurricane Irma, it was highly likely that the bottle could have been lost or completely obliterated. Yet after an incredibly unusual series of events that had all been sparked by Allen Gibson and Nikki Snow’s discovery during the storm, finally, it had all come full circle.

15. A Misunderstanding

But when Chila received Alfredo Hernandez’s email from Florida, the young singer didn’t quite react how one might expect. At first, when she read his message, rather than being overjoyed or excited, she got annoyed. She actually thought at first that someone in Cuba was playing a prank on her.

message in a bottle


What Alfredo had said to her in his message must have seemed too good to be true, not to mention that the contents of her letter had been rather personal, and not something she had expected anyone to find. This was not at all what she had intended for her letter.

16. Dreams Take Flight

Chila was right to be suspicious, as the likelihood of her message in a bottle having traveled as far as the writer of the email claimed seemed wildly far-fetched. But when Chila realized this stranger who had emailed her was, in fact, serious, and not living in Cuba, she was ecstatic.

chila lynn message in a bottle


She rushed to tell her grandmother, who was utterly flabbergasted by the revelation. To use Chila’s own words as she described the improbable course of events, “Imagine my grandmother’s face when I told her.” It filled Chila’s heart with hope for her future — but not because Alfredo had found the letter.

17. Higher Power

The message in a bottle had traveled to Indialantic, Florida entirely by the ferocious powers of the ocean, whether through currents or hurricane. Intriguingly enough, this was completely in line with where Chila’s personal beliefs lay. Chila’s original intentions for the letter were, in fact, not for a human being to find.

chila lynn message in a bottle

Unlike almost every other classic message in a bottle story, her cry for help that had traversed the open ocean was directed toward a supernatural figure. When she used the term ‘mother’ as she addressed the letter, she was not actually referring to the woman who had given birth to her.

18. Driven By Faith

Chila’s intentions for her message in a bottle were firmly rooted in her faith. In Cuba, ancient Yoruba religion brought by West African slaves hybridized and blended with Spanish Catholic beliefs. Believers in Afro-Cuban religion, sometimes referred to as Santería, believe in a system of what is called orishas.

message in a bottle cuba


While they mean many things for their devotees, in essence, orishas are godly spirits that have taken a human form. Those who practice Santería have often found a counterpart in Christianity represented by each orisha. Chila had an incredibly important figure in mind when she made her wish, which was on the way to reaching fruition.

19. A Prayer To Yemayá

Chila’s message in a bottle was not for human eyes at all, but was written from her soul for the orisha known as Yemayá. In Afro-Cuban religion, Yemayá is considered the mother of all creation and all other deities. Because of this, for Cubans, she is connected with the Virgin Mary.

yemaya cuba message in a bottle


Chila had thrown the bottle into Havana Bay by the side of the church of Our Lady of Regla, which has a shrine to Yemayá inside. According to Santería tradition, she is a goddess of the seas, and a protector of women, a comforting mother figure. Chila’s prayer to Yemayá had stirred Alfredo’s spirit, and he took action.

20. Establishing A Bond

Alfredo kept diligently in touch with Chila Lynn, and he made sure to listen to her music. Naturally, he was incredibly impressed with her work, calling her a “talented and dedicated artist.” In 2017, she had worked hard to release another album, entitled Amor y miel (“love and honey”), released internationally.

message in a bottle chila lynn


By the time Nikki and Allen found the message in a bottle and Alfredo reached out to her, Chila didn’t have a record deal anymore, but that didn’t deter her confidence in her future success. Alfredo now turned to his own connections to see if they could help this young woman.

21. Career Boost

Alfredo Hernandez knew that Chila Lynn’s career options would be limited within Cuba itself. Through his contacts in the music industry, he tried to help get his new friend from Cuba so that she could perform in the United States, at the very minimum in Florida to the Spanish-speaking community there.

message in a bottle

Getty Images

But even though Alfredo was determined to try and help the Cuban R&B singer achieve her career dreams through the resources at hand, and despite the fact that he himself could theoretically stand to benefit financially from the transaction, he actually had another interest in mind — one very close to Chila’s heart.

22. No Business Incentive

For Alfredo, helping Chila Lynn be able to set up and carry out a successful tour in the United States was not at all a business deal. He did it with the utmost devotion, feeling that the Virgin Mary was asking him personally to help this woman pursue a successful career.

message in a bottle

Facebook/Chila Lynn

Alfredo’s conclusion about the Virgin Mary and her Afro-Cuban orisha was not random. His perspective is particularly steeped in Cuban tradition, and therefore may be hard for those not versed in their religion to understand. He has enormous reasons to stand strong in his faith. The bottle had revealed something to him.

23. Answered Prayers

Many different cultures across the globe believe in different appearances and revelations of the Virgin Mary, and within the Afro-Cuban tradition, the story of Chila’s message in a bottle was both a source of incredible joy, and made perfect sense. The entire experience has strengthened and reinforced Alfredo and Chila’s faith.

chila lynn message in a bottle

“I told Chila, the virgin put this letter in my hand for a reason,” Alfredo said. Meanwhile, Chila has expressed similar sentiments: “It’s very in touch with the virgin. There was a hurricane — a huge one — and still the bottle made it. I think it’s a story about faith.” Coincidentally, Chila had been thinking of expanding her career to the U.S. before she sent her prayer in the bottle. With her eyes set on Florida, though, would the rest of her dreams come true?

24. Chain Of Extraordinary Events

There are no official reports yet of Chila performing in the United States, yet after her message was found, she had reportedly assembled a band and was prepared to tour in the U.S. Still, all parties involved in the saga, including college student Nikki Snow and her boyfriend Allen Gibson, who had found the bottle in the first place, were absolutely floored with what has transpired.

allen gibson nikki snow message in a bottle

Facebook/Allen Gibson

“I think it’s pretty incredible, you know? You find something like this, and nine times out of 10 you’re never going to know who it is,” Snow told Florida Today. “And you’re just going to either read it, throw it back, or show some friends. But we found the person. We were able to contact her.” Chila and Alfredo also felt they were destined by fate and by faith to be connected. So where is the note now?

25. Keeping The Faith

Inside his Cuban restaurant, El Ambia Cubano in Melbourne, Florida, Alfredo Hernandez keeps a small altar beside a statue of the Virgin of Charity, who correlates to the Cuban orisha named Ochún. At the altar, he can leave offerings to her that she may bless him, according to his belief.

message in a bottle

Florida Today

And on the wall beside this modest tabletop shrine is Chila Lynn’s heartfelt letter, lovingly framed. While it hadn’t been initially written for human eyes, he believes he’s been brought to it by a higher power. One thing is certain: the forces that brought the two together are anything but ordinary.

Sources: Florida TodayDaily Mail

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