Retired fisherman sends 80 little boats to sea

When retired fisherman Edwin Wall received 80 small homemade boats for his 80th birthday, he decided to set them adrift to see where they'd end up.

A variation of message in a bottle

Edwin Wall holds one of his 80 little wooden boats. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Edwin Wall will never forget the gift from his daughter two years ago, to mark his 80th birthday. Well, actually the 80 gifts from his daughter — 80 small, handmade wooden boats.

"Sandra didn't know what she was going to get me for a present, so she just thought she would do something different. She knows we build our own boats, and that's where I suppose she got the idea," Wall said.

Edwin Wall is sending 80 little boats out to sea

5 years ago
Edwin Wall is sending 80 little boats out to sea 0:46

The challenge was figuring out what to do with all the boats.

"I haven't got enough room to put them all around the shop, so we decided we'd release them and see where they'd go. Turned out pretty good."

Send a message back

Each boat is numbered, and has a colour photo of Wall and a message tacked on to it. The finder is asked to email Wall with the details of where and when the boat was found. 

The boats end up washing ashore on beaches throughout the Maritimes. (Submitted)

Wall releases a few dozen boats into the water every year. He said some of them wash ashore, and are hidden by seaweed. 

"Nobody sees it until another storm shifts the seaweed around and then 'Whoa, behold! What's this?' So they go back and have a look," he said.

'A keepsake'

Of the 77 little boats that have been set free so far about 25 have been found, mostly on P.E.I. beaches. Others have washed up as far away as Cape Breton and the Magdalen Islands.

The Davidson family says, 'The discoveries certainly brought some excitement to our day trip at the beach.' (Stuart Davidson)

"My kids and I found three of your boats washed up on the shore near Naufrage. Boats # 14, 22 and 25 made it to Bear River Beach, just a few miles east of Naufrage Harbour. The discoveries certainly brought some excitement to our day trip at the beach," wrote Stuart Davidson of Ontario.

Edwin's wife Kay answers the emails from beachcombers who find the little boats.

"Well it's kind of exciting to see where the boats have gone and a lot of people who found them were from off-Island and they were really excited to find them," she said. "It was a keepsake for them."

'Found treasure'

"We've never met but it warmed my heart that there are people in your life that had so much love in their heart for you that they set 80 boats adrift so that your life could be celebrated over and over again with each found treasure," wrote Arja Page of Stratford, P.E.I., who found boat #48 on Shaw's Beach.

"Shaw's is a very special beach to me already for personal reasons and its even nicer now that I know such lovely treasures can wash ashore representing so much love."

Ontario tourist Skee Teleki says, 'I was intrigued and delighted to find one of your red boats.' (Submitted)

Skee Teleki also found a boat, while visiting Cable Head Beach East from Toronto.

"I was intrigued and delighted to find one of your red boats (#27, to be exact) tossed up by the stormy weather," she wrote.

"I would be most interested to know how many other boats have been retrieved and where they landed. What a wonderful way to celebrate your 80th birthday! Belated Happy Birthday! Wondering how you/your family will celebrate your 90th!"

Wall is wondering the same thing.

"With more birthdays, it'll be up to the daughters to come up with something. Probably send me around the world," he said.