Missing Navy boat found a year later, 3,300 miles from home

Irish ferry company makes unexpected discovery

By Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN
CNN Video

US Navy boat found in Ireland nearly a year after it went missing during training operations in Norfolk, Virginia.

(CNN) - Crew members from a ferry company in Ireland said they made an unexpected discovery with U.S. ties this week when they found a Navy boat floating in the Atlantic Ocean.

Doolin Ferry Co.'s Doolin Express crew were en route to Inis Oirr, a small Aran island near Galway Bay, Ireland, on Monday when they said they saw a bright orange object in the water.

Once crew members got closer, they said they found an abandoned boat and towed it back to shore to take a closer look, the ferry company wrote on their website. That's when they said they saw the boat had its two engines still attached, but with the number of barnacles on the boat's sides, they could tell it had been in the water for a long period of time.

A feeling of fear set over Tom Noel, Captain of the Doolin Express, when he first saw the boat because he said he wasn't sure if there were people on board and in need of help.

"Then once we got closer and could see the amount of growth on it I knew it was a long time in the water and that it was only a danger to navigation, so I notified the Coast Guard of its position," he said.

Doolin Ferry Co. was able to find out where the boat had come from. The boat's manufacturer, Silver Ships, was based out of Alabama.

CNN reached out Silver Ships for comment but has not heard back.

Intrigued, the ferry company took to social media Tuesday with their discovery. Several theories were posted in the comments section of the ferry company's Facebook post.

The unmanned vessel was lost 75 miles off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, during a missile test and evaluation exercise last September, Timothy Boulay of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Maryland told CNN in an email.

So how did the boat survive over 3,300 miles across the Atlantic Ocean? The foam-filled boats were designed not to sink, Boulay said.

This is the second time in 15 years that a boat has gone missing at sea, according to Boulay. He said the first was eventually found in the Dominican Republic.

"Our Atlantic Targets and Marine Operations team followed their established procedures, searched for the unmanned vessel for five hours, and then notified the US Coast Guard regarding the hazard to navigation," Boulay said.

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