Cathy Fix grabs a handful of breadcrumbs, opens her kitchen window and puts her hand out. Soon, a swan is eating out of her palm. If you live in a float home, you are bound to experience gentle rocking with the tides and visits from seals, geese, otters, loons, ducks and swans.
Float homes are not houseboats. The difference is that a float home is a permanent dwelling that isn't motorized. They range in size from small, quaint 400-square-foot abodes to luxurious three-level homes as big as 3,000 square feet.
But regardless of size, they're big on lifestyle.
As the occasional kayaker drifts by, Cathy and Mel Fix sit on the deck of their float home to talk about why they were so attracted to this type of waterfront living.
"I love being close to the water, it is so serene," says Cathy. "There's a constant change, an ebb and flow to the river that no two days are alike."
Two years ago, the couple purchased an older float home in Delta's Ladner Reach and spent a year-and-a-half renovating it.
"Every season brings newness at Christmas, we have front-row seats to the carol ships," says Mel, adding they have unobstructed views of the waterfront, all the way to the North Shore Mountains, Grouse Mountain, right to UBC and beyond.
Before you put your home on the market, be aware that as this lifestyle has become trendier and trendier, the prices to buy, the upkeep and moorage have gone up substantially.
Bruce Wilde, the former owner of the Fixes' home, lived on the FraserRiver for more than two decades.
"I purchased it on a romantic whim there was something really appealing about living in a float home," he says. "After a hard day at work, I'd get home and completely de-stress you can't beat the scenery and the peacefulness."
But as Wilde began to consider retirement, he crunched the numbers and decided that the floating lifestyle was too rich for his wallet.
"When I first bought my float home, I was paying $225 in monthly upkeep fees when I sold, it was $950. The escalating moorage and maintenance costs were just too much for a single guy like me."
Don Bruchet, president of the Floating Home Association Pacific Canada (FHAPC) and a float-home owner in Ladner Reach, agrees with Wilde.
"The fees, maintenance costs, rules, stipulations and regulations are strangling the lifestyle," says the 67-year-old retired airline employee whose home is three storeys high and 1,700 square feet. "It's getting to the point that this lifestyle is for the rich and famous."
Regular costs include moorage, monthly strata or rent fees (which may include moorage), city taxes and insurance.
FHAPC was founded more than 25 years ago to "promote, inform and be a voice for float-home owners."
"It can be municipal or provincial politics issues, or we provide ideas or suggestions to float-home owners on a number of issues that directly affect them," he says. "Our website is full of information for those considering living in a float home."
In addition, the association is heavily involved in providing up-to-date information on issues that could financially affect its members. For example, Port Metro Vancouver is starting to demand that float home owners have their home marine surveyed for floatability every 10 years.
"This new regulation will carry with it a $360 charge," says Bruchet.
Despite the costs, life afloat is irresistible to many.
Judy Ross not only sells float homes at North Vancouver's Mosquito Creek Marina, this past summer she became a homeowner as well.
"I've been selling float homes since the 1990s. When I started selling at Mosquito Creek, I decided to sell my condo and buy a 1,155 square foot float home here," says the Real Estate Agent. "I don't have to deal with elevators, hallway noise or strata and I have a detached home."
"I'm also part of a strong community, a creative group of neighbours and I love it."
Prices to purchase a brand-new float home at Mosquito Creek run between $495,000 and $700,000.
They say that boat ownership is like a hole in the water into which the owner throws money, but all agree that there is nothing quite like gently rocking to sleep with the waves, or waking up to boats and marine life passing by your doorstep.
"It is like being on a vacation, each and every day," says Mel Fix. "A hovercraft came so close to our home recently, I could have passed them a cup of coffee."
( Courtesy of Don Bruchet, president of the Floating Home Association Pacific Canada)
Delta:Ladner Reach, Canoe Pass Village (the first strata titled village in the country), Marina Wes-Del, Westham Island Marina
Richmond:Richmond Marina, Vancouver Marina, High Water Marina, River's Bend Marina, several communities along Dyke Road opposite Annacis Island, plus a new 11 berth float-home development just approved for Deas Slough
Vancouver:Granville Island's SeaVillage, Coal Harbour Marina
North Vancouver:Mosquito Creek, Spirit Trail Ocean Homes
Langley/Fort Langley:Grant's Landing
For more information, visit www.floathomepacific.ca; www.floathomes.com; or the Ministry of Housing and Construction Standards www.housing.gov.bc.ca/pub/htmldocs/floathome.htm.