STYLE

Floating homes a splashy alternative to typical housing for some Canadians

08/01/2013 06:00 EDT | Updated 10/01/2013 05:12 EDT
VICTORIA - Making a move from a six-bedroom, four-bathroom Edmonton university house to a floating home in Victoria would be an adjustment for most, but when Briane Andersen and his wife moved into their new home at Fisherman's Wharf, he encountered something he didn't expect: seasickness.

"I was sick for the first eight days we lived in the house," said Andersen. "We didn't have much wind either, but after a while you don't even notice that you are moving unless you get a powerful wind."

The Andersens spent a lot of time visiting Victoria before they found their houseboat six years ago, but from the time they first saw it — and when they decided to buy it about 20 minutes later — they knew they were set to join a unique community.

The floating home community at Fisherman's Wharf is made up of 33 houses with nearly 66 residents.

"Our first objective was to find a community," said Andersen. "I grew up in a smaller town in Alberta, and I liked that when we moved here you had an instant group of people we could associate with, and that's what we were looking for and we certainly found it in this community."

The community might be similar, but the houses are different. The floating homes are constantly moving, and how much they move depends on the currents, tides and winds.

The Andersens' home is also different than their floating neighbours in that their two-storey house has a small crawlspace with a furnace.

"It is a fully modern house," he said. "We have a kitchen with all of the appliances, including a dishwasher, and so it is a regular home but we're on the water."

The floating homes at Fisherman's Wharf may be comparable to standard landlocked houses, but the homes on the Northwest Territories' Great Slave Lake, near Yellowknife, are much different than those in B.C.

Daniel Gillis built his home (which is also the Yellowknife Bay Floating Bed and Breakfast) three years ago, and unlike the Andersens' house, Gillis's is completely off the grid and requires generators, solar panels and internal filters for water.

"Basically it's a full house with a few extras," said Gillis. "For plumbing, fortunately for us we can take our water straight from the lake and filter it through a house filter and it is beautiful water. For waste nobody out on the lake has flushing toilets, so there is no such thing as black water. Everyone brings their solid waste to the dump and that's no problem."

Gillis installed an additional filter on the boat for grey water that converts it back into drinking water.

Residents of the 35-home community on Yellowknife Bay are almost landlocked for seven to eight months of the year when the lake freezes.

"We can actually drive up and park right next to our house on about five feet of snow," said Gillis. "It's actually quite convenient in the winter. The house doesn't move in the winter so you have to be sure to make sure your house freezes level or you'll spend the next eight months on a slope."

MORE:cpStyle