Friday, July 18, 2014

Family summer evening ride and tour of Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf Floathome community

     The family that motos together, stays together. 

We have had some stellar summer weather and I stare out the window from my air conditioned office and wish I was sitting on my bike soaking up summer and waiting for the day to be done so we can venture forth and enjoy two wheeled family time. These are the days that  the clock ticks by slowly and time seems to stand still, how come on rainy days time seems to speed up?

My gear hangs patiently waiting for me and I stare at it all day thinking 3-2-1 BLAST-OFF!!! It's a great conversation piece at work. I have wondered if I could get my bike up to my office and sit on that instead of my steno chair - now that would be a conversation starter!  (only kidding).   When people ask me if the gear belongs to me and what I ride, I usually see a look of surprise and even a look of shock come across their faces after I say,  "Yes and a Honda Shadow" Most people say, "Wow, that's cool" or "Good for you."   Then they ask me how long I've been riding and I say almost four years and that I was a late bloomer.   It's weird because they seem genuinely shocked and I see it as just an ordinary thing that lots of women do. It's not like I am a trail blazer or suffragette - those were amazing women. 

But I digress from the intent of my post.  This summer day was like every other summer day, ripe for riding and adventure, I talked the moto family into going for an evening ride under the pretense of getting ice cream.  (They always fall for that one). So off we went.

Victoria is a very eclectic, vibrant, and beautiful city with history at every turn in the form of architecture and cool little pockets of diversity.  We are called the Garden City and are famous for our parks and scenery, we also have one of the oldest Chinese communities in Canada, Chinatown is beautiful. I forget how lovely it is during the day to day grind.  My daily commute is through the heart of downtown and at 8:30am it's a beehive of activity and during peak tourist season it is hard to navigate around the downtown core and at times downright dangerous when on a bike.  (I avoid anything with a rental car sticker on the bumper) tonight we decided to live on the edge and drive through the tourist mayhem and taxi cab/tour bus chaos,  to head to Fisherman's Wharf for ice cream and to look at the local float home village.  

My little motorcyclista and I doing my must have moto selfie.

Awhile back I shared with  my blog followers I used to live on a floathome for 10 years in the harbour, I have been scouring my picture box and somehow they are buried somewhere in the depths of my basement.  Yes I am a hoarder and they are somewhere down in the basement of doom.  Anyway  here is my house the "The Resting Cloud" in it's current form - a Mexican Restaurant.  This breaks my heart because they have changed it so much, it used to be beautiful when I owned it, it was loaded with hanging flower baskets and railing boxes and spectacular in the summer and not this hideous colour scheme. 

An artist friend painted a picture of my house as a gift for us & this is what it looked like in it's glory days.

Our house was moored up in Cowichan Bay when we first bought it and we later towed it down to Victoria. That was a surreal experience seeing your home floating out in the ocean. The only things I took off the house that day were my wedding pictures and jewellery.  The captain said it was bad luck to take things off. Motorcycle Man sealed up the doors, rented a large bilge pump and rode on board all the way from Cowhican Bay to Victoria.  It was an 8 hour trip on a beautifully calm day. The floatation for the house was  two steel hulls built by a shipwright and the house structure built on top of that.  It was a one bedroom house that was all totalled 750sq feet of compact living with all the amenities of any other land based home with a few minor alterations. We had to be concerned with weight and weight distribution, so that meant no overtly heavy furniture.   The bedroom & bathroom where upstairs and surrounded by outside deck space. The main level had a dining room, living room and galley kitchen, an interior utility room and exterior ulility room. The main floor was designed in the shape of a cross with the dinning room being the window you see from the front, the  livingroom in the middle and kitchen on the opposite side.  There was a beautifully built wooden ship ladder to the upstairs and under that we had a small 2 seater breakfast nook with a built-in table that had a drop leaf top. It was a compact tidy lifestyle and in retrospect less complicated and simpler than our current land based life. We also had a composting toilet so we weren't flushing out into the bay. Initially we heated the house in winter with a little kick butt wood stove and had propane for a demand water heater and stove.  Eventually, we converted the heating system to a single efficient propane fireplace which was our sole source of heat.  We survived the Blizzard of 1996 and were snug as bugs in a rug, and fared better than our land based neighbours who had no power or heat for several days.  It was lovely being able to turn on the heat and not fiddle with kindling and waiting for it to catch and waiting an hour or more for the house to warm up.  We lost the romance for the wood heating during our first winter and the house being cold after sitting all day with no heat and coming home to a freezing house after a two hour commute and by that time we were too tired to light the fire so we spent many a cold night under heavy duvets. By the way for those of you wondering if we pay city taxes, we do pay property/city taxes just like every other home owner. 

A floathome is not a houseboat, because they aren't self propelling and are moored to a wharf system and hooked up to city services.  You will also note that I don't take close up pictures of the community, I won't walk down the docks because I want these folks to maintain their privacy.  

Generally floathomers are tight knit little communities, because you never know when you are going to need the help of your neighbours, particularly on a stormy night when you are out all night retying slackened lines and praying for the docks to hold together if it was really stormy. And yes, it can get pretty scary when winds are howling at 90km/h and there is a swell on.  The house does a dance  with the roll of the ocean and it can be a little unnerving at times.  

Living onboard a floathome was not without it's challenges, but the uniqueness of it  far outweighed those challenges.  A family of swans and Canadian Geese routinely came for snacks and would give their honking calls to let me know they were waiting for goodies.  We had this one Canadian Goose family with two babies, we named one Gos and the other Ling (get it gosling) We've had otters up on the deck and I have to say they are cute looking, but don't let their cuteness deceive you, they are nasty little buggers if you get too close and they are destructive too.  They went up under the siding of my friend's house ruined the inside and it was pretty disgusting. 

There isn't much space between the houses and you pretty much live in each other's pockets, but over time you get the hang of  living in close proximity to others. You develop the habit of looking down when passing by windows.  I wish tourists would do the same, sometimes it was more than a little invasive.  One night I was watching tv in my livingroom and I felt the house move as if someone stepped onboard, and when I looked up there was a fellow with his nose pressed against the window. He skiddadled pretty quickly when I sat up and looked at him, he had to come a fair way onboard to get to my front window.  Another time two women walked right in without knocking because my front door was open and they thought the house was empty.  Nope. Most of the time though people were pretty good and if they were really curious I usually invited them in for a tour of our tidy little sanctuary. We moved back to dry land when our wee girl was almost a year old because she was starting to toddle and I didn't want the constant worry of her falling overboard. 

I have lived on land for 16 years now and I long for those cozy winter nights and cool summer evenings sitting on the balcony of the Resting Cloud, sipping wine and watching the comings and goings of the harbour and would trade it all for my floathome and kayaks. (keeping the bikes of course)  

After our little stop & tour of Fisherman's Wharf we hopped back on the bikes to chase the sunset. It was magnificent!

View from King George a Terrace looking out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca

The Olympic Mountains of Washington State  in the foreground.

Towards the end of ride up to Mt Tolmie to look over Victoria, in the distance is Mt Doug

This shot is looking towards the Mainland (Vancouver) 

All in all it was the perfect family evening ride!  We left a little after 6:00pm and arrived home after 10:30pm feeling very contented and ready for bed.  Being with the people you love, riding, eating icecream, sunsets, warm temps, it doesn't get any better than that. I LOVE SUMMER!!!


SonjaM said...

Dar, what a wonderful living space you must have had. It doesn't get closer than that to water... it would definitely suit my desires (keeping the bikes of course).

Great set of pictures with the evening skies. Life is good, isn't it?

Dar said...

Sonja, I miss it so much. Other people would rush away on weekends to go camping and we would rush home to open all the windows, pop the cork on the vino and leisurely make our way through dinner out on the balcony and listen to jazz music. We used to hop the little harbour ferry to downtown and on the way home the driver would drop us right at our house. Sadly my daughter doesn't remember her first year onboard and I wish the house was just a little bigger because I think we still would be living there. It was a magical time, a lot of our family thought we were nuts for choosing the lifestyle but it was a better compromise than living on a boat. It would gave been too small & no space to escape each other when you needed a little room. Unfortunately it is now just a lifestyle for the ultra rich and is no longer affordable for the average person.

Dar said...


Richard M said...

Thank you posting more from your floathome days. I still think that it's an interesting lifestyle and housing choice and one that not many have the opportunity to experience. Too bad about the conversion of your old home to a restaurant but the painting looks wonderful. The effort is kind of similar to those who choose to live in a cabin. Most have electricity but generally no other utilities. It is still a popular housing option especially for college students and those who want a low maintenance home.

Dar said...

Richard, it was a glorious 10 years. I have never slept better in my entire life. Maybe I am looking back through rose coloured glasses now because it was during my 20's, but I have to say were lived pretty luxuriously during that time. There was never a shortage of guests either particularly if it was summer and people wanted to chill on the deck.

VStar Lady said...

I've always been curious about Float Homes ... they have made some in my area, but I don't know where they were sent.

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

Dar, I was enjoying the family ride by itself but then you included the story of your past in the floathome. I'm in awe of your time spent on the water and your detailing of it. Fantastic post, one I'm going to share!
Thanks so much for detailing it as you have!!

Trobairitz said...

A perfect summer evening with the family.

I enjoyed hearing about the float homes. We didn't walk near them when we visited for the privacy issue. Didn't want to intrude.

You could always move back to one when Diva Jr goes off to college.

Shybiker said...

What a great post. You integrate motorcycling into your life the same way I do: it's so nice to see how it makes you happy. I, too, pack my gear at work which starts many fun conversations.

Deb said...

What a fun and fascinating post!

I had no idea about these float homes. I did think they were houseboats of sorts, so glad you explained.

Just one question: when it rocked did anybody feel seasick?

Re people at work (or anywhere for that matter). It is truly amazing to me that we on 2 wheels are like some "alien species" to "outsiders" (they just don't get it).

They have no idea what they are missing and never will!

So nice you all can ride together and you have such happy memories of your float home lifestyle.

Dar said...

I suspect they are local Karin, because it would be too costly to ship them here.

Dar said...

Coop - I was going to keep the post mainly pictures, but then when I started with the floathome pictures I started thinking about my house & how much I missed it.

Dar said...

Brandy you are the perfect tourist! When we lived in Cowichan by the government wharf we had a guy standing there with binoculars looking in. It was a little unnerving to say the least. I think our floathome days are done because the instability of marinas and the cost of water leases and mortgages in the houses themselves. Most people pay a mortgage on their homes plus moorage which can range from $700 a month to a few thousand depending on the footprint if the house.

Dar said...

Ally I think I integrate motorcycling into everything because it such a part if my daily life. I was complacent when I was a passenger and didn't really appreciate the difference of driving vs being a passenger. It also makes me feel things more and has brought a different quality to the fabric if my life.

Dar said...

Deb when we first moved on board we stayed in for an entire weekend unpacking and getting settled I never left and when we left for for on the Monday my legs were wobbly. We never got seasick because we were close to shore. The house was built so well and so stable all we ever really had was a gentle roll and movement. A few times during storms the house rocked a bit more & my hanging wineglasses clanked together and the worst part was when the house would drift away from the dock and then the ropes would catch and yank it back with a sharp tug. The noisiest part was listening to all the boat rigging clank in the wind it was pretty noisy.

As for cagers they never will understand our depth if passion for bikes because they can't grasp the reality until they ride themselves. But the movie Why We Ride does a pretty good job of explaining it.

David Masse said...

Great post Dar.

I have fond memories of discovering the float homes in Victoria, the ones where the fish and chip restaurant is.

I took some pictures, and did venture down the wharf between the homes, but hopefully I didn't invade anyone's privacy.