A solar-powered boat abandoned in Canada washed ashore in Ireland
TORONTO -- When a solar-powered wooden houseboat marked with the name “Rick Small” washed ashore on an Irish beach in 2016, locals were left puzzled.
For three years, the mysterious vessel has sat abandoned in County Mayo, along the western shore of Ireland, after drifting over 3,200 kilometres across the Atlantic from Newfoundland. The only clue to its origins was a hand-written note scrawled on the inside.
“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,” read the note.
As it turns out, Small is a 62-year-old inventor and solar enthusiast living in Victoria who built the mystery boat to raise awareness about climate change.
The 10-metre long boat, fitted with solar panels and waterproofed with tar, was originally designed to transport Small from Newfoundland to the Arctic to show how the ice is disappearing. But after failing to find the proper electric motor for his inventor, Small abandoned it in Newfoundland.
“I wrote a thing on the wall and said give it to the homeless youth. But what they ended up doing was somebody towed it out and released it in the Atlantic,” Small told CTVNews Vancouver Island.
Fascinated with solar power since he was a child, the inventor has built three solar-powered vehicles, including a bicycle with a large compartment on the back dubbed the “Light Rider.”
The insulated interior acts as a shelter where Small sleeps, while the solar panels power his electronics, cook his meals, and propel the vehicle up to 400 kilometres a day.
Small says he’s travelled across the country on the contraption, including a 100-day trip from Victoria to St. John’s.
“The cost of my living has crashed because I don’t need anything anymore. I’m not chasing money for gas and expensive car maintenance,” he said.
“It’s called freedom.”
Small says he continues to experiment with solar devices in the hope of creating eco-friendly and cost effective solutions for future generations.
“We walk around in an energy field. It’s invisible… a thousand watts per square meter,” Small said.
“From the tip of each of my fingertips and the top of my head to the ground, that’s four square metres, or 4,000 watts per second when the sun's out.”
He says creations such as his mystery boat can help lower emissions and provide a constant energy source, providing a unique solution to issues like homelessness.
Although his boat wasn’t used to provide shelter to those in need, the Ballyglass Coast Guard Unit in Ireland says Small’s vessel has been repaired and is on display in a community garden.