With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian


T/n Raffaelo

"A Message in a Bottle"

By Joseph S. Gulotti

I was an energetic eleven year old and I could sing every Beatles song from memory. My favourite song was Help, which I played over and over on my four-track tape player. That year Richard Nixon finally won the presidency after two failed efforts and inherited a raging in Vietnam. Jimi Hendrix played a psychedelic version of The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock Festival that summer and rioting and discontent gripped many American cities.

Ready to set sail with Aunt Dora and family to see us off

Photograph provided by Joseph Gulotti

I set sail with my Aunt Dora shortly after noon on June 15, 1969 on the T/n Raffaello, an Italia Line ocean liner of luxurious splendour. We put out to sea from Pier 82, one of the numerous piers that fingered out into the murky waters of the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side. It was a warm Sunday afternoon and a brilliant sun reflected off of the Empire State Building which stood out among the countless, less characteristic skyscrapers that made up the Manhattan skyline. At the furthest point west on 42nd Street, all the sounds of a great metropolis were carried on a humid breeze. As we lifted anchor, the noise of the city’s traffic was drowned out by the deep, drawn out sound of the ships powerful fog horns.

 A postcard home from Joseph

Provided by Joseph Gulotti


Joseph and Aunt Dora in Stressa, Italy

Photograph provided by Joseph Gulotti


 Joseph at Lake Lucarno, Switzerland

Photograph provided by Joseph Gulotti

After a few days at sea, I began to get homesick but the feeling quickly passed as the next several days were filled with eating and swimming and running, playing with new friends and going to bed way past my bedtime. During one of those days, Aunt Dora had an idea. Somewhere north of Spain’s volcanic Canary Islands off of the northwest coast of Africa, she encouraged me to believe in magic and to dream the impossible. She told me that if I put a note in a bottle and threw it into the sea that surely someone would find it in some distant time, in some distant land. Captivated by that magical possibility, I got a thin sheet of the ships blue stationary from the cabins desk and began to write. Below a line drawing of the ship and Raffaello written in cursive characters, I began my letter promising to anyone who found my letter a reward. I stuffed the tightly rolled up treasure into an empty wine bottle and sealed it tightly with a cork. That evening, after dinner, I tossed the bottle overboard. I watched it bob on the waves until it disappeared into the loneliness off the sea. As it faded from view so did its memory. Until …

Provided by Joseph Gulotti

One day in March of 1972, the postman delivered a letter addressed; Joseph Gulotti, Esq. 92-11 52nd Avenue, Elmhurst, New York 11373 USA. I rarely received any letters and that one wasn’t like any letter I had ever seen. Not an envelope, rather a single thin sheet of letter paper that when carefully unsealed showed the contents of the correspondence on one side and the address written on the other. Just above the address was a yellow and brown stamp picturing men building a boat out of wood. In the corner of the stamp was the likeness of the Queen of England. I was so excited. Beside the stamp it read par avion aerogramme and below that printed to the character of a triangle was the outline of the southern coast of Florida, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Within the triangle were several small dots labelled Turks and Caicos Islands, West Indies. I had no idea what to expect when I opened it.

Provided by Joseph Gulotti

To my disbelief and with complete astonishment, years after I had cast my wine bottle into the ocean I read the words “On 19 March 1972, I found a bottle on…” It was so unexpected, so impossible, but it was true. Someone really did find my bottle in a distant time on a distant land. I ran down the stairs as fast as I could and burst into Aunt Dora’s apartment. Dozing in her chair quietly listening to Vivaldi on her Victrola, she was startled at my unexpected entrance. I began to read her the letter. “I found your bottle on Great Sand Cay with you’re note in it. This particular Cay is uninhabited and the purpose for our visit there was just for an outing. You offered a reward”, it continued, “however, rather than sending me the reward I would appreciate it if you would send me a letter telling me when you dropped the bottle in the ocean. I hope you had a good trip.” It was signed; Sincerely, William C. Bivin. As if protected by the Greek God of the sea Poseidon himself, my bottle was found unbroken and perfectly sealed on a sandy beach almost four thousand miles away from where I had dropped it into a devouring sea three years earlier.

To my relief, the traveller who discovered my bottle had relinquished me of my promise of a reward and instead rewarded me by taking the time to write to me and showing me that miracles were possible, if you only wish hard enough. On March 19, 1993, twenty one years to the day when my bottle was discovered, I experienced another miracle. On that day my wife Cornelia and I were blessed with the birth of our only child, April. Years later when she was no older than I was when I threw my bottle into the sea, she closed her eyes, made a wish and tossed her own bottled message of the deck of a boat while cruising the tranquil waters off the Ionian Sea. Perhaps Poseidon will once again deliver a child’s dreams of magic and wonder to a distant shore and into the hands of someone else on an outing.


Joseph seen during a return visit to Lucarno in 2008

Photograph provided by Joseph Gulotti

I hereby wish to thank Joseph for his interesting story and images. It is certainly interesting how a bottle thrown overboard is not only found, but that someone actually responds to it. I am sure that this voyage and event has left an indelible impression on his mind and an most enjoyable memory of a great liner!

Reuben Goossens


1 ... Italia Line Main Page

2 ... Michelangelo Photo Album

3 ... Raffaello Photo Album

4 … Message in a BottleAn amazing story of a bottle thrown from Raffaello by Joseph Gulotti



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Commenced in the passenger Shipping Industry in May 1960 &

Where the ships of the past make history & the 1914 built MV Doulos Story


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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on only), in order that due credit may be given. I know what it is like, I have seen a multitude of my own photographs on other sites, yet these individuals either refuse to provide credit or remove them when asked, knowing full well that there is no legal comeback when it comes to the net. However, let us show these charlatans up and do the right thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!

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