Nfld. & Labrador

'Like a sign': Late fisherman's daughter touched by reply to message in bottle

At the end of the crab season, Corinna Russell decided to do something special for her father and the rest of the crew helped her with the tribute.

Tribute to Redgeway Russell thrown overboard in a bottle washes up exactly where he'd want it to

Corinna Russell, left, took her father's place aboard the Northern Swan after he died in 2015. Crewmate Pamela Penney, right, wrote the tribute they later tossed into the ocean in a bottle. (Submitted )

When Corinna Russell's father died in 2015, she did something he probably wouldn't have approved of.

She agreed to take his place aboard the Northern Swan, a small crab fishing boat launched out of their hometown, William's Harbour, on the south coast of Labrador.

"I don't think Dad would have been too impressed at that moment. I think he would have been nervous."

The 2016 crab season was the first in many years without Redgeway Russell on deck. The younger Russell says it was difficult for all hands.

"The whole crab season was very emotional for me," she said, "I tried my hardest to fill his shoes — pretty big shoes to fill."

At the end of the season, Russell and the rest of the crew decided to do something special for her father. Crewmate Pamela Penney penned a tribute to her old friend, rolled it up in a bottle, and asked his daughter to throw it out to sea.

"Once you toss a bottle in the ocean you never know where it's going to end up," Penney said.  

A fitting end

One year later — on Father's Day — they learned the bottle had landed in Ireland.

The crew was up at 2 a.m. to go to the fishing grounds. They all gathered at the skipper's house and listened to a voice mail message that came in overnight.

'He never really travelled very far and he never talked about it, but the one place he always wanted to go was Ireland.- Corinna Russell

"The nervousness of going out just turned peaceful. To find out a gentleman in Ireland found our message and made contact," Penney said.

They hadn't spoken to him directly as of Monday, but according to the voice mail, the man in Ireland found the bottle months earlier, but couldn't call until June 18. 

"It was very heartwarming to me," Russell said, "It seemed like a sign."

She feels it's a fitting end to the story, because her father always wanted to visit Ireland.

"He never really travelled very far and he never talked about it, but the one place he always wanted to go was Ireland."

Father would be proud 

As for her career aboard the Northern Swan, Russell said she thinks her father would approve now, if he could see her in action.

Penney joined the crew last year, too, and said she loves the lifestyle. The two women were "talked about a lot" last summer, she said, standing out among mostly-male fishers.

Russell and Penney are back aboard the Northern Swan for another crab season, and said Redge Russell is never far from their minds.

"The whole time that I was out there, I felt that he was around me," said his daugher. "And I tried my best to make him happy and proud."

Pamela Penney printed a copy of the tribute she wrote to Redgeway Russell, rolled it up inside a bottle, and Corinna Russell threw it out to sea. (Submitted)

About the Author

Bailey White

CBC News

Bailey White is a journalist based in St. John's.