Nfld. & Labrador

Washed-up houseboat from N.L. will likely become tourist attraction in Ireland

A houseboat that has washed up in Ireland will probably be turned into a tourist attraction, despite a note from its assumed owner requesting it be used as shelter for homeless youth.

Irish authorities unsuccessful in attempts to contact vessel's believed owner

This houseboat, believed to belong to environmentalist Rick Small, washed up in Ireland after apparently drifting across the Atlantic Ocean. (Submitted/Ballyglass Coast Guard)

Authorities in Ireland are trying to find the owner of a houseboat that washed up along the country's coast in mid-November.

The boat is believed to be owned by environmentalist Rick Small, who is originally from Ontario but came to Newfoundland via a solar-powered bike in 2015. 

While the note signed "Rick Small" left inside the houseboat requested the structure be donated to homeless youth, Michael Hurst, officer in charge with the Ballyglass Coast Guard unit in Belmullet, Mayo, said he thinks it will be turned into a local tourist attraction.

"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 said.

"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."

This note was found inside a houseboat that washed up in Ireland. (Submitted/Ballyglass Coast Guard)

Hurst said a group in the county made up of current and retired workers, known as the Men's Shed, might try and restore the vessel.

"At the moment it is being taken care of by the local authority until all efforts have been exhausted in contacting Rick [Small]," Hurst said.

"Then the authorities will look at it again and they'll put some legal injunction on the vessel and they'll be able to take it into their hands then."

It's been near impossible to get in contact with him.- Michael Hurst

The BBC reported the houseboat is believed to have been in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's as recently as September. 

"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," Hurst said.

"The owner then clarifies [whether] he wishes to remain as owner of the vessel, and [then] would have to take it back home, or [he] can relinquish all rights to the vessel and maybe then the local authorities then can take it over."

Hurst said the Ballyglass Coast Guard has been unsuccessful in its attempt to contact Small.

"At the moment it's still in the ownership of Rick, so we just have to wait and see when and if he makes contact," he said.

"It's been near impossible to get in contact with him."

With files from Paula Gale