Rick Small's houseboat
Photo by Ballyglass Coast Guard

Canadian houseboat with mysterious note washes up on Irish shore

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When a home-built solar-panelled boat washed ashore in Ireland a few weeks ago, it naturally raised a few questions, first and foremost among them: who built this eco-friendly DIY vessel, and where did it come from?

The answers were found in a note within the ship, and they showed that it had been on an incredible journey. It turns out the boat had started its journey in Newfoundland and had drifted, uncrewed, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. The full text of the note reads: “I, Rick Small, donate this structure to a homeless youth to give them a better life that Newfoundlanders choose not to do! No rent. No mortgage. No hydro.”

The note found in Rick Small's houseboat
The note found in the cabin of the houseboat.

It is believed that the writer of the note is Rick Small from Thunder Bay, Ontario. An environmentalist, Small is known for his long-distance trips on his solar-panelled bike. It is thought that he built the boat and set it adrift hoping homeless youth would be able to use it as a home—but he likely had no idea that it would end up far from the shores of Newfoundland, across the ocean.

And the boat’s fantastic journey won’t end with its discovery. As getting it back to its owner seems unlikely, the vessel is expected to become a tourist attraction. Michael Hurst of the Ballyglass Coast Guard in Ireland told the CBC that since getting in touch with Small has proven “near impossible,” the boat is in the possession of local authorities.”When a vessel like this is washed ashore, it’s classed as a shipwreck and it falls into the property of the state until the owner is actually notified,” he said. However, if Small does not reclaim the ship, its ownership will fall to the local authorities.

Hurst noted that in the Ballyglass area, the ship can’t be used for its intended purpose, so its function may end up shifting. “It is a nice little vessel. Someone that would be homeless in the woods or whatever, it would make a nice little home for them,” he told the CBC. “But I suppose we’re fortunate enough in the area we’re in, where the vessel is, we don’t have any homeless, and it will probably be used as a tourist attraction.”

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