Mystery as Canadian houseboat washes up on Irish Beach

image copyrightDeclan Murphy
image captionThe homemade houseboat remains mostly intact, despite its 1,900 mile journey

A houseboat believed to have been built by an environmentalist in Canada has washed up on an Irish beach. The vessel is thought to have drifted across the Atlantic, and was spotted as late as September in Portugal Cove-St Philip's in Newfoundland.

The coastguard was alerted by a member of the public who spotted the caravan-sized structure floating on the coast.

The boat is believed to have been built by eco-adventurer Rick Small, from Thunder Bay, Canada.

image copyrightBallyglass Coast Guard Unit
image captionThe caravan-sized structure washed up on the County Mayo beach on Sunday

Inside the the vessel there is a note that 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".

image copyrightBallyglass Coast Guard Unit
image captionThe message inside is believed to have been written by the vessel's creator

Mr Small gained attention in his native country after previously fitting out a three-wheeled bike with solar panels, which powered him across 7,000 km of Canada.

Michael Hurst, an officer in charge of the Ballyglass Coast guard in County Mayo, was tasked with securing the unusual vessel.

Describing the out-of-the-ordinary rescue mission, he said: "The shape, itself, is very unusual, because of the size of it. I initially thought it might be a caravan."

image copyrightDeclan Murphy
image captionAmong the items still on board the houseboat are two of Mr Small's kettles

After checking the vessel had nobody on board, his team secured it from drifting back out and contacted the local council and customs service.

Mr Hurst described the insides of the vessel as "habitable" and believes it was fitted with an electric motor to run off the solar panels on the houseboat's roof.

image copyrightSamantha Arden
image captionThe abandoned vessel pictured in Canada at the end of July

Samantha Arden from Conception Bay, Newfoundland, saw the abandoned vessel in Portugal Cove-St Philips at the end of July. It is believed it drifted from there across the Atlantic.

Timothy John Ewart, another Conception Bay resident and keen sailor, described finding the vessel on a beach near his home one day last year.

image copyrightTimothy John Ewart
image captionMr Small was believed to have moved the houseboat across local beaches across Newfoundland

He spoke to Mr Small where he told him of his plans to sail across the Atlantic.

"The boats steering system was only a piece of plywood bolted to a PVC pipe. And the motors barely had enough power to move."

"I never saw him again"

He recalled his last encounter with Mr Small in 2015: "When he left our area he was standing on top using a long 2X4 (piece of wood) to push his way out because the current was stopping the boat."

The vessel has now been taken ashore onto Cross Beach in County Mayo.