The wooden houseboat washed ashore on Ireland’s Atlantic coast three years ago, prompting two questions: how did it get there? And where was Rick Small?
The 20ft (6-metre) craft, made with driftwood and polystyrene and fitted with solar panels, had no one at the helm when it turned up at Drum beach, near Belmullet in County Mayo, in November 2016.
There was a message written on the ceiling: “I, Rick Small, donate this structure to a homeless youth to give them a better life that Newfoundland chose not to do! No rent, no mortgage, no hydro.”
Small was known in Canada as an environmentalist who built solar-powered three-wheeled bikes, but he was elusive and his connection to the boat, and how it crossed the Atlantic, remained unclear.
This week the CTV News network found him in Vancouver. “Mystery solved”, he said.
The 62-year-old said he built the vessel in 2016 and planned to sail from Newfoundland to the Arctic to raise awareness about the climate crisis and vanishing Arctic ice.
But when he failed to source an appropriate motor he gave the boat away. He said he had no idea how it ended up at sea. He expressed pride that it survived a voyage of more than 1,800 miles largely intact. “It didn’t sink. I must have done a good job.”
Small said he planned to build another boat after making more solar-powered bikes that he calls Solarized-Its.
Volunteers in Mayo refurbished the vessel in 2017. It is now on display in a community garden in the village of Binghamstown a few miles from Drum beach. RTE reported that locals have invited Small to visit.