Float home living idyllic says convert


OCTOBER 31, 2013 12:00 AM


Gavin Wishart loved the hustle and bustle of living in a Yaletown condo.

But when he realized he couldn’t visit a friend on another floor in the same building without traveling all the way downstairs then getting buzzed in through the front door, his downtown lifestyle began feeling more like a high-rise prison.

So eight years ago he moved to a float home in Queensborough.

“I liked being downtown, but this is like heaven,” says Wishart, who’s retired from his career in architecture and construction management.

Wishart says a move by the city to amend its community plan for Queensborough to curtail any more float homes along the foreshore flies in the face of creating environmentally friendly, inviting communities.

That’s what Wishart says he discovered when he and his wife fled the concrete jungle.

Their first float home in an enclave of about a half dozen homes and boats was only 800 square feet, but they since moved to a larger 1,800-square-foot residence that Wishart is currently renovating.

On a sunny fall afternoon the views are stunning, up the Annacis Channel, past the skyline of condo towers along New Westminster’s waterfront to the Golden Ears Mountains. A swan swoops in for a clumsy landing. A lone kayaker paddles by, one of Wishart’s neighbours enjoying the warm weather.

“It’s idyllic,” says Wishart, who regularly sees eagles, seals, a beaver that maintains a lodge on shore nearby and the occasional fish leaping from the water.

“We live in harmony with our environment.”

Even the regular midnight passage of a tug pulling a giant log barge Wishart has dubbed “the leviathan” doesn’t diminish the spell. In fact, personal watercraft cause more waves to rock him from his reverie.

But the float home lifestyle isn’t for everyone, he’s quick to add. There’s no storage, and the close proximity of his neighbours means everyone knows what everyone else is up to.

And, Wishart says, float home dwellers always have to keep one ear cocked to what their abode might be telling them, whether it’s the subtle sound of water lapping into a leak in the hull or the rising winds signaling an approaching storm that might make for a rocky evening.

Wishart says float home residents’ pride of ownership extends to the shore to which their moorage is attached. The gangway is flanked on one side by flowers and shrubs. Patio furniture sits on a well-trimmed patch of lawn. Walking from South Dyke Road to the dock is like decompressing, says Wishart.

Though most float home owners don’t have property, they still pay property tax. They also pay moorage fees. And since it’s ultimately Port Metro Vancouver that controls the foreshore, float home residents could easily be set adrift should the federal government decide it has a better use for the waterfront.

That’s something municipalities looking to restrict float home development might want to keep in mind, cautions Wishart.

“They can do what they want,” says Wishart. “But if they got rid of float homes, they could move in barges.”

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