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How a resilient boat made a 14 month-long journey from Newfoundland to Norway — all by itself

a wide shot of five people observing a battered overturned boat on a low rocky island on a clear day.
Members of a Norwegian volunteer group found a boat that had been lost off the coast of Newfoundland in June 2021. (In the Same Boat/Facebook)

When Jason Burton lost his boat off the coast of Newfoundland last year, he figured it was gone forever.

Little did he know the 21-foot-long skiff would end up across the ocean, off the coast of Vega, Norway.

“Lo and behold, she made quite a journey for herself,” Burton said in a recent interview.

At the end of June 2021, Burton was towing the boat, an Osprey 210, from his home port of Lumsden to Conception Bay for the capelin fishery.

“There was a bit of wind when we left, 25 knots or so, but it wasn’t too bad,” he said.

Burton and the other members of the crew on the longliner towing the smaller boat were keeping a close eye on it at first, but became less concerned when the wind died down while they crossed Trinity Bay.

“We said, ‘Ah, she’s OK back there,'” he said.

After about an hour, they checked on the boat. It was gone.

They searched but saw no sign of it. The winds picked up and they could see whitecaps on the ocean.

“Famous, Trinity Bay is, for southwest wind,” Burton said. “The wind came up about 25 or 30 knots.”

Usually, Burton said, he would have placed a beacon on the boat to prevent it from getting lost — but that day it slipped his mind.

Across the Atlantic

Burton reported the lost vessel to the Canadian Coast Guard. A few days later, the coast guard told him crew aboard a supply vessel had found the boat about 140 kilometres off Cape St. Francis, which itself is more than 60 kilometres from Trinity Bay, where the boat had gone adrift. 

The boat had overturned, and the supply vessel hadn’t taken it on board.

“I just figured that that’s just going to sink,” Burton said. “She’s floating bottom up, but once she turns upright the air’s going to come out of her and she’s gone.”

Fourteen months later, a Norwegian volunteer organization called In the Same Boat found a boat upside down, wedged on a rock off the coast of the island of Vega.

WATCH: Members of In the Same Boat flip a Newfoundland boat caught on rocks off the coast of Norway 

The group, which collects plastic waste off the Norwegian shoreline, posted photos of the boat on Canadian Facebook groups, hoping they could find the owner.

“We got a response from an owner in Newfoundland, and it was just amazing to see how far this boat has travelled,” said Rold Hogset of In the Same Boat. “We have never found anything that big from that far before.”

The group had to wait two days for maximum high tide before moving it off the rock. Hogset said the boat is still able to float.

“It must be a really good and strong build,” he said.

A new life?

Hogset said about 80 to 90 per cent of the waste that In the Same Boat finds is from the fishing industry, but most of it comes from Norway and its closest neighbours. An exception is smaller plastics, like bottles, which come from around the world.

A close up of a symbol of a bird and words painted in green on the front of a white, beaten up boat. The words say "Osprey 210" along with a serial number.
In the Same Boat used the information on the side of the boat to find its origin. Rold Hogset said the boat still floats, though it needs repairs. (In the Same Boat/Facebook)

If the organization hadn’t found the boat, he said, it eventually would have broken down and turned into microplastics. He said the story shows the far-reaching impact of ocean waste.

“This is just one boat, and we think about the big amounts of big stuff and small stuff that is floating around the ocean. It’s pretty scary,” he said.

He said the organization plans to repair the boat, but it won’t be heading back to Newfoundland and Labrador. Burton, who has already bought another boat, said that’s fine with him.

“If there was anybody over there who can bring her back to life, I’d be very, very proud to see her back to life,” he said. “But if not, I guess she’ll go to the shredder and see the end of her days.”

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