The secluded shores of Sauvie Island, Oregon hold what many consider to be a local legend. The origins of the beached behemoth you’ll find there aren’t immediately evident, or whether it was suited for land, sea or perhaps air. But those who’ve spotted it have found it difficult to ignore, raising wonderment of what, when and how.
It was the Great Flood of 1996 that brought the unknown vessel it to it’s final resting place. Or at least thats when Island locals began to notice it. A closer inspection of the decrepit mass reveals it to be the shell of a homemade boat whose massive size possesses an ironic ambiguity as it slowly merges with its surrounding landscape.
The boat was first registered for use in 1972 according to paperwork on file with the Oregon State Marine Board.
Shortly after this story aired, the ship’s inventor and captain Richard Ensign reached out to Tim Becker of Local 6, informing him the watercraft was a prototype for a self-righting sailboat and was indeed deposited there haphazardly and against his will during the 1996 floods. Armed with fresh information and and the will to learn more, Becker would dive even deeper into the ship’s storied past, revealing the untold tales of its very passengers.
“Boy, so many fond memories,” gushed Charlotte Smythe who sailed aboard the vessel for 3 months during its maiden voyage 40 years ago. The ship was 30 feet in length and could sleep up to 12 people. It boasted modern amenities such as a wood stove and even lighting thanks to an onboard generator.
“It was like a giant fort that floated and it was so much fun,” Smyth recalled as she described her time on the boat, including one particularly close encounter with a military helicopter. Apparently modern-day passerby’s aren’t alone in thinking this beached craft had a former life as a UFO.
The ship even gained public notoriety in its most seaworthy of days, being dubbed The Floating Saucer in the January 5th, 1973 issue of the Oregonian.
Through the words of his stepson in the comments area of a similarly curious online posting, we gain a deeper understanding of ship inventor and captain Richard Ensign and his motives for such a large undertaking.
“I was 13-15 years old [at the] time and [we] spent a lot of time working on it,” explained Vic in his comment to the article.
Vic went on to explain his engineer step father’s pressing concern of future economic and social collapse, and that his aquatic creation was the prototype for a seaworthy boat that could be produced cheaply to escape the societal horrors imminent on land.
“The hulls are filled with foam,” continued Vic. “It was a sailboat and had two large main sails and a 6 cylinder car engine with a conversion drive system. The total cost to build this, including engine, sails and controls was around $10,000.”
In his comment dated October 13, 2013, Vic also reported the news of his stepfather’s passing. This suggests Richard Ensign was deceased or in poor health at the time the second news story aired. It’s regrettable to think so because his eagerness to share story after the airing of the first news story.
Vic ended his comment echoing his stepfather’s sentiments in a stark word of warning, “His visions of social and economic collapse may still be viable….”
Quite interestingly, this particular stretch of beach on Sauvie Island is no stranger to maritime oddities being washed to shore. In the same 1996 flood, a World War II lifeboat found its home just feet from Ensign’s escaped invention.
Just who was Richard Ensign, and what are we to make of his premonition for impending societal collapse? We may never know for sure, but we could ponder endlessly his answers to our questions, had the world known of his identity sooner.
You might say the culmination of Richard Ensign’s aspirations were washed away along with his creation that fateful day, while others would call his work a successful proof of concept. After all, the Floating Saucer did survive a life at sea, a flood, and a daily dose of environmental abuse ever since. There’s no reason to believe it won’t continue to exist in its current form, perched on its remote stretch of sand beach, just waiting to surprise the next passerby for decades to come.