IT'S the story of eight newly found friends, a cruise ship, a wedding anniversary and an empty bottle of Penfolds Bin 128. Messages are scrawled on pieces of paper, rolled up and inserted into a bottle before it is ceremoniously tossed overboard into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Who knew if it would ever be found? But that was half the fun of it.

Margot and Steve Scott, then newly engaged, boarded the Norwegian Star for a 10-night cruise of the Pacific in May 1999, the first of 11 cruises they've travelled.

"We arrived at dinner and introduced ourselves to our table mates, Graham and Colleen Mansfield, from Tatura in Victoria, and Di Thomson from Brisbane," recalls Margot, who now calls Yamba home.

"We immediately clicked with Colleen and Graham and enjoyed many laughs. Steve and I ordered the first of many bottles of Penfolds Bin 128 to enjoy with our dinners - and were surprised to receive a 1993 vintage."

After dinner, Margot and Steve joined Colleen and Graham for a show, where they were introduced to Kay and Alan Terrey. They'd all just met for the first time since boarding.

"We enjoyed many wonderful dinners as we all enjoyed each other's company and found there was a lot of commonality, not to mention respect and admiration," Margot says.

"It was while we were enjoying all the warmth of the camaraderie we had developed with our new friends that Steve suggested we all write a note to put in a bottle - who knows what other wonderful people we could meet at the end of the bottle's journey?

"We had smuggled an empty bottle of Penfolds Bin 128 (we were on to 1996 vintage by then) into our cabin, rinsed it thoroughly and had it drying out in our wardrobe to be the receptacle for our messages. We suggested at dinner on May 31 that everyone write their message and we perform the solemn duty the next evening."

June 1 was Alan and Kay's 20th wedding anniversary.

"They had planned to dine at the upmarket French restaurant on board. I said 'Well, not without us, you're not!', so Alan booked a table for eight and we invited Di and a gentleman called Nev Charlton we met at the trivia contests," Margot says.

"We wrote down that we were celebrating friendship and wanted to share it. We didn't know who or if anyone would ever find it. We wrote down our contact details, asking for whoever found the bottle to get in touch.

"At the end of the dinner, we all congregated on the deck to have the 'throwing the bottle overboard ceremony'. We asked a passing crewman which would be the best way to throw it, and to his credit he volunteered to dispose of it for us until we advised that there were notes in it, and he requested us to allow him to disappear before our ceremony.

"We calculated we were at least 1000 kilometres from Australia, so had absolutely no idea where the bottle would end up."

The friends enjoyed the rest of the cruise together and since fulfilled their promised to stay in touch.

They had all but forgotten about the bottle when, 19 months later in November 2000, Steve and Margot's phone rang early one Sunday morning.

"We had moved house and none of the contact details we had put on the note were relevant any more," Margot says.

"I answered the phone and a woman asked if I was Margot and then said she wanted to speak to me about pollution of our waterways.

"As we live right on the Cooks River, I thought she was referring to that ... She said, 'Well, I know for a fact that you personally have polluted our waterways!'

"I started to get a bit stroppy with that comment - who was this woman to accuse me of such a dastardly act!

"Then she said 'because I have in front of me the bottle you threw off the Norwegian Star - barnacles and all'." Margot said she was overwhelmed with excitement.

The woman on the other end was June Pieschel.

She and her husband Rudy had found the bottle when they were walking along the beach at Tura on the south coast of New South Wales.

June had called Kay and Alan, who had given her the Scotts' phone number.

"June was incredibly proactive in trying to get our story told. She tracked down Serena Bratton, who had been the owner of our Norwegian Star, and it transpired that Serena's husband Ray and Rudy had been in the commandos together 25 years earlier," Margot says.

"Six degrees of separation and all that - it appeared that we lived in a very small world."