How lonely lighthouse keeper’s message in a bottle led to ‘dream’ love affair

A retired lighthouse keeper has revealed how a message in a bottle that he threw into the sea led to a ‘dream’ love affair with a stranger.

Robbie Goldsmith was so lonely during his nearly 30-year career that he hurled thousands of bottles containing notes into the ocean.

Using a variety of containers that floated, the 73-year-old says he would chuck as many as 12 messages into the water every week.

Each one explained where the bottle had come from, and asked the finder to let Robbie know when and where it had been found.

Robbie, who lives in St Peter Port on Guernsey, spent most of his working life in the Trinity House Lighthouse Service at Hanois lighthouse.

Based a mile off the channel island, his messages floated away on tidal streams to far flung destinations including Florida, US.

And one of them came into the possession of a German woman.

Robbie was 50 when he received a reply from the woman, called Jutta, who was living in France at the time. The pair soon became pen pals.

But over the coming months, they developed a romantic connection.

"One woman in France found one of my letters and wrote to me," recalled Robbie, who would spend more than a month on his own at a time.

"I got transferred to Alderney light house and while I was there she came over and visited me.

"She was divorced and I was divorced so we struck up a relationship. That was good, she was from France but she was a German lady.

"I was 50 at the time, she was 42 or 43.

"She had auburn hair and was very good looking. It was the sort of thing I would have dreamed about as a younger man. You could say that."

During a break in his casual relationship with Jutta, Robbie ended up getting engaged to a former partner.

He continued: "Later on when I was back on land I got married to an older girlfriend so I had to break it off.

"But when I got divorced 10 years later she got in touch and she came over and she spent Christmas with me but the magic had gone.

"I was young and handsome then, I’m old and ugly now."

Robbie used to spend 56 days at a time living a solitary existence in his lighthouse – maintaining the lights and keeping watch for ships.

To quell his boredom, he began throwing bottles into the sea.

Over his 27 years in the job, he says he hurled thousands of bottles into the water, each containing a similar, simple message.

He claims he received hundreds of replies.

"I just thought one day let’s stick a message in a bottle and see what happens," he said.

"After a month I got one reply, and I thought this is a good idea. It was a good way to contact people, being on a lighthouse is quite lonely.

"I used to put 10 or 12 in a week, I would use any sort of bottle, plastic, glass, mustard jars, and marble tin containers, anything that floated.

"I’d probably get prosecuted now.

"The note I had written in it was quite simple.

"The message read, ‘this bottle was thrown into sea from the Hanois lighthouse, which is one mile of the south-west coast of Guernsey, if you find it please let me know when and where you found it’.

Although Robbie has fond memories of his time in the lighthouse service, he also experienced tragedy when his teenage son drowned.

The then-lighthouse keeper was on Guernsey when the 19-year-old fisherman, Paul, got into trouble in nearby waters while alone.

"He drowned right by the lighthouse," said Robbie.

"I was ashore at the time when it happened, he was only 19.

"He was a fisherman and was in his boat and it sank. We don’t know what happened, he was on his own so we don’t know for sure."

Although Robbie left the lighthouse service around 20 years ago, some of his messages are still being found.

Most recently, a bottle was discovered on a beach near Calais, northern France, by a stranger called Gabriel Lenclu.

Gabriel contacted Robbie after tracking him down on YouTube.

This particular bottle had spent the best part of a quarter of a century at sea, being dated Nov 28, 1993.

Robbie continued: "I was really surprised for someone to find it after all that time. I wonder if there are many more bobbing around out there?

"I have sent a message back to the person who found it, so I guess we’ll see what happened now."

Robbie retired in 1997 and has since donated many of his messages and the correspondence to the Guernsey Museum.

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