first glance, the differences in lifestyles are great:
one lives on the Fraser River in British Columbia,
the other in a century plus Ontario home. But the pioneering
spirit that built Canada thrives in both settings
MAYBE IT Is the romance of having wild ducks and swans
for neighbors or perhaps its as simple as never mowing
a lawn. What ever ever the motive, the mystique
of living on the water holds a powerful appeal for
many on Canada's West Coast.
About so years ago, builder
Dan Wittenberg gambled that there were enough people
who, like him, wanted to
in a water-based home but didn't want to forsake
any of the comforts of a conventional landlocked residence.
To that end, he developed Canoe Pass Floating
Village, a marina development that is located on
the estuary of the Fraser River, about 20 kilometres
south of Vancouver.
The idea was simple. While the water itself is
owned by the Crown, residents would buy a portion
adjacent upland, which would allow them to lease
rights for their home and share the marina's
facilities. The homes themselves would be built on land
meet all building codes, then anchored to floats
Wittenberg designed - stable, unsinkable, fireproof
shells of reinforced concrete filled with Styrofoam and
the homes' plumbing and electrical
systems. The homes would then be launched much
like boats and
moored to the marina infrastructure.
The rolling action of
the home, in harmony with his suspended water
bed, is as soothing as a rocking chair, says
Dan Wittenberg. The bed's canopy is a collage
of embroideries from India.
In the beginning,
Wittenberg had to convince several levels of bureaucrats, including
financial institutions, building inspectors and environmental
protection agencies, of the scheme's viability. Once
those hurdles were cleared, there was an eager market
ready to share his dream. To date, there are 43 homes
in Canoe Pass and seven more in west Delta, B.C.
Another 12 homes are under construction in west Delta.
The floating community has attracted a broad cross
section of purchasers, says Wittenberg. "We
have young families and retired people living
here. The only thing residents have in common is that
they tend to be creative, imaginative people who prefer
living on the water to mowing lawns."
While there is no such thing as a standard Canoe Pass
home, Wittenberg's residence is typical in its level
of comfort, sophistication and individuality.
Designed by architect Mark Ankenman, with interior
design by textile artist Barbara Shelly, Wittenberg's
wife, the two-storey house with a loft, an interior
container garden and radiant-heat floors "dances
to its own tune:' says Wittenberg.
There is more truth than poetry in this description.
Because the home moves with the tides and sways
with the wave action, the house is never totally still.
Usually the movement is gentle and soothing, but
occasionally the effect is more disconcerting. "Fm
prone to seasickness," he says, "so there
are maybe two nights a year during really heavy storms
when I have to go ashore to find a place to sleep"
Viewed from a distance, the 1,750-square-foot
house, with its vivid scarlet roof and gingerbread
trim, could be a fanciful reconstruction of a 19th-century
riverboat. "There is an element of fantasy;" says
Wittenberg. "Once you step onto your own wharf,
into a floating home, you lose yourself in the rhythms
of the river. There's a sense of leaving all your cares
and woes on the land behind you."
The galley kitchen is
compact yet efficient.
Life on the River
THE ROLLING action of the home, in harmony with his
suspended water bed, is as soothing as a rocking chair,
says Dan Wittenberg. The bed's canopy (above) is a collage
of embroideries from India. The galley kitchen (left)
is compact yet efficient. Living on the water has its
rewards. But before you sell your suburban villa and
in the van for a kayak, there are a few things you should know.
Although floating homes have a long and colorful history
on the West Coast, many financial institutions are reluctant
to provide mortgages for housing still perceived as unconventional.
Moreover, there are few marinas that tolerate "live-aboards," whether
they're bunking down in a highly mobile sailboat or living in an architect-designed
home on a permanently moored barge, such as those built by Dan Wittenberg. Wittenberg
had to seek approval from more than 30 different government agencies before his
community could take shape.
Cost, too, is a factor.
Though Canoe Pass residents don't own land, they are inhabiting prized waterfront
property, and their moorage costs reflect that reality.
The house is built on land, but the sophisticated flotation structure is expensive.
Depending on the size of the house, the cost of the floats can be more expensive
than a traditional building site.
But if the appeal of watching the salmon run past your
front door, communing with a passing flock of wild swans
or commuting by kayak outweighs the drawbacks,
a home on the water just might be right for you.