A custom-built houseboat from Canada has mysteriously washed up on Ireland’s western shore after apparently drifting across the Atlantic Ocean from Canada. According to CTVNews, a hiker spotted the boat last month (November 13) on a beach near the village of Ballyglass in County Mayo. Locals were startled by the unusual sighting on Cross Beach and an emergency rescue mission was sparked by lifeboat and coastguard crews. The Irish Coast Guard is now in possession of the ark-like houseboat, which is made of wood and features solar panels. The camper-sized vessel was a bit battered from the journey across the Atlantic but is otherwise intact.
According to a message inside, the boat appears to have belonged to environmentalist and eco-adventurer Rick Small of Thunder Bay, Ontario, who built the boat in Newfoundland. The Telegraph reports that Small intended to sail in the "floating caravan" but was dissuaded from the endeavor before it accidentally broke loose from its moorings a few months ago.
The message left inside the houseboat suggests Small had intended to donate the 20ft timber and polystyrene houseboat to somebody in need. The message read: “I, Rick Small, donate this structure to a homeless youth, to give them a better life that (sic) Newfoundlanders choose not to do. No rent, no mortgage, no hydro."
It is not known why the boat washed out to sea or how it survived the ocean crossing. It is also unclear where Small is now, although it is not believed he was onboard the boat when it was swept out to sea.
CTVNews reports that in recent years Small has set out on a number of long-distance e-bike rides and is known as an eco-adventurer from Ontario, fueling his treks with solar power. His most recent journey was in 2015 when he left British Columbia on a solar-powered tricycle and set out to reach Newfoundland some 4,375 miles away.
The Irish Coast Guard has since contacted their Canadian counterparts in Halifax.
"They said the owner was hoping to cross the Atlantic in it, but they managed to discourage him," a spokesman said.
"It was last seen in Portugal Cove in Newfoundland during the summer and it broke loose.
"The Halifax authorities were amazed it made it to Ireland and was in one piece."
The Ballyglass Coast Guard Unit in Co. Mayo were some of the first on the scene when the vessel washed ashore, initially unsure of what it was.
"I didn't know what to think, I was just concerned about safety and securing it," said Michael Hurst, a member of the unit.
"Then I thought: where in the name of God did this come from and who built it?"
"I wouldn't like to go out on it," he added. "But if you were homeless, it would be like a castle."
Locals are reported to be looking into the possibility of using the houseboat as a tourist attraction along the Wild Atlantic Way as hundreds have already visited the beach to take a look at the unusual washed-up vessel. A final decision on what happens to the structure, however, will rest with Mayo County Council.
Read more: How to travel to Ireland by boat