Our Little Cabin Up the Lake

by Kent Griswold on October 21st, 2008. 36 Comments
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by Margy Lutz, Powell River, BC

My husband Wayne and I were vacationing in Coastal British Columbia when we discovered something unique and intriguing on Powell Lake, float cabins.  It was love at first sight.  We had been looking for a place to retire and knew this was it. We laughingly say, when we bought our cabin, it came with John.  This was very important. In the beginning we could only visit on holidays.  John (the previous owner and cabin builder) agreed to check on our place and help out with odd jobs.

Lutz's Floating Cabin

Lutz's Floating Cabin

Float cabins are a big part of Coastal BC history.  During the heyday of logging and fishing, they were used as support camps that could be moved from place to place.  On Powell Lake, float cabins were inexpensive hunting and fishing getaways for paper mill workers.  Today things are a little more regulated.  Cabins have registered water leases and we pay property taxes.

Cabin construction begins with the float.  John lashed huge cedar logs together with ¾ inch steel cable.  A winch and hydraulic jack tighten the cables and large railroad spikes hold them in place. Next the deck is added and finally the cabin is built on top.  John is typical of many people who live in Coastal BC.  He is self-reliant and a “Jack of all trades.”  And he has been very patient about teaching us “city-folk” along the way.

Float Construction

Float Construction

Cabin Foundation

Cabin Foundation

Our cabin is small (20×21 feet) but complete.  The downstairs has two bedrooms, one of which we use for storage and a bathtub.  The main downstairs area is a great room design including kitchen, dining and living areas.  The large upstairs loft is our bedroom.  It’s plenty of space, especially since we have the whole outdoors at our doorstep.  The main float is 40X40 and we have additional floats for a variety of purposes: a dock, a floating woodshed and my floating vegetable garden.  The garden is on a pulley.  I bring it in to tend my plants and then send it out to our log boom breakwater to protect it from hungry critters.  When Wayne wants privacy for writing, he heads out to the Gemini, a renovated boat that is his author’s retreat.

Cabin Walls

Cabin Walls

We live up the lake about 25 minutes from the marina.  Our power sources are solar and wind, with propane for cooking, refrigeration and additional lights. In winter we use a small generator to give our batteries an occasional boost.  Our wood stove keeps the cabin warm so we can live there in all seasons. An outhouse on shore may soon be replaced with a composting toilet.  Four flights of stairs up the cliff in stormy weather isn’t always fun.

Living Area and Stove

Living Area and Stove

Now that we have retired, we spend about 75% of the year living in our float cabin.  Our lives follow the seasons with wood gathering, gardening, swimming, fishing and enjoying our surroundings.  There’s nothing better than getting up early and having a cup of coffee on the deck watching the sun rise over Goat Island to herald in a new day.

July Garden

July Garden

In 2001 we purchased our cabin for $35,000 CAD which at the time was about $25,000 USD.  We figured we couldn’t go wrong with that.  Actually, because there is a moratorium on new cabins the values have risen quite rapidly.  John sold another cabin this year (a little larger than ours) for $100,000 and some are going for even more than that.  Even so, it is still within the range of many people.  Of course, that is because there is no land involved.  But we feel comfortable with our 20 year lease that is renewable from the BC government.  The lease payment is $500 a year and the taxes the same amount.

You can find more information about float cabin and off the grid living at http://PowellRiverBooks.blogspot.com.  For information about Wayne’s Coastal BC Stories, come to www.PowellRiverBooks.com.   Up the Lake and Farther Up the Lake have lots of information about our cabin life on Powell Lake.

Float Cabin Floorplan

Float Cabin Floorplan

Float Cabin Loft Plan

Float Cabin Loft Plan

View of Float Cabin

View of Float Cabin

View From Cabin

View From Cabin

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36 Responses to “Our Little Cabin Up the Lake”

  1. Christina says:

    Thanks for writing about your cabin Margy! I noticed it on the Small Cabin forum right away because of the beautiful location. Also, thanks for your great blog and your podcasts, too!

  2. Denise says:

    I’ve never seen anything like it! I’ll add you to my blogroll and check back often. I’m on a peninsula and thought that it didn’t get any better than that, but it does! :)

  3. Margy says:

    Thanks for the kind comments Denise and Christina. I will be following the comments if anyone has a question that I can answer. It’s hard to tell the whole story in just a few paragraphs. — Margy

  4. RS says:

    I think it’d be very peaceful living there, surrounded by a lot of natural beauty and soothing streaming water.

    My question, though, is more about conservation. One home on the lake – no big deal. It’s beautiful to see and offers a unique perspective in living. If hundreds of thousands of homes are built like this, we may just end up polluting rivers and streams.

  5. Margy says:

    I don’t know about other lakes or rivers, but on Powell Lake. I agree with you, it wouldn’t work everywhere. Here on Powell Lake there is a moratorium on the number of cabins. In about 1998 the number was capped at 250. That probably sounds like a lot, but our lake is 51 km long with over 480 km (300 mi) of shoreline. It is also over 1000 feet deep in places due to its glacial origin. There’s even trapped sea water at the bottom.

    Cabin owners like privacy, so they have placed their cabins with good spacing from neighbors, and the natural bays needed for protection from wind and waves also helps to keep things separated. There are lease restrictions about the handling of waste water to minimize pollution. Som of the larger bays with several cabins have their water tested on occasion to make sure everything is OK.

    Aother factor is that most people only use their cabins in the summer and a few sunny weekends during other times of the year. We are an exception staying for most of the year.

    I agree with you about pollution. We are extremely careful about what goes into the lake. My gardening is organic, no pesticides. We drink the lake water (after boiling) so we have a vested interest in keeping the water pure.

    I hope this answered your question. Like you, we are concerned about pollution and work hard to do our part to make sure our lifestyle is in sync with our natural surroundings. — Margy

  6. bry says:

    where dost thou shitt and pis

  7. Julie says:

    This is beautiful! What a pretty spot you have. And I loooove the garden!

  8. Margy says:

    Thanks for the question Bry. As I mentioned in the post we currently have an outhouse on shore. But it is on the cliff so it requires a climb. We use what we lovingly call “Mr. Pee Bucket” to reduce the number of daily trips and haul it up the hill at a later time.

    We are planning on adding a composting toilet on the float in the future. They have models that use solar power for off the grid users. We have been looking at the Envirolet brand since it is available locally in our town. http://www.envirolet.ca/ In fact, one of their testimonials is from a Powell Lake cabin owner. – Margy

  9. [...] and Margy Lutz blog about living in this floating cabin, on the jewel-toned waters of Coastal British Columbia. Definitely enough to make dreamers like me, [...]

  10. Dave V says:

    I just found your site, its great! I thought I had seen everything, but never this. What could be better than living right on the lake?


  11. [...] in a whole different way.  You may have read a little bit about it in the October 21 article “Our Little Cabin Up the Lake.”  Kent has invited me back to tell you a little more about living in a floating [...]

  12. NONI says:

    we have a cabbin up there too. we use it mainly for summer we chare with 2 other families , we have an in sane number of kids all totaled (15)and they love it up there in the sun cheap vacationing fro those of us with tight budgets. we are the 5th up from haywire bay. we just recently rebuild becasue the origional cabin was mouse infested and pulling apart the float had issues. but now we have a lovely 3 bed room 24×24 cabin with a large deck out front. we just installed a woodstove so we have winter use too. if it wasn’t fro all the kids i’d so love to stay up for longer , maybe this winter break. though going through one summer storm was a bit u nerving, yet cool allt he same, the rain on the tin roof was soo cool. i love your floating garden. do you have some sort of system to wick water into the beds so the plants don’t need to be watered from above?? such a great idea!
    any way love your home.. it is paradiseacle.. and yes we live in one of the most beatiful places !

  13. [...] still find some cedar shake shingles. Our cabin is a basic 20 X 21 cabin (see my previous posts “Our Little Cabin Up the Lake” and “Living on the Water” for more details). A peaked roof gives us just enough room for a [...]

  14. Margy says:

    Hi Noni – We are farther up the lake at Hole in the Wall just past First Narrows. We’ve been up the lake quite a bit this December already. We’ve enjoyed the snow, but brushed a lot off the roof and decks. We sank about 5 inches into the water from all the weight. Is your cabin the green one just before the point with the land cabins? I know that one was just rebuilt this last summer. We are heading back up the lake on Friday after New Years so I will count five to see which one it is. If you head farther up the lake stop by and say HI. – Margy

  15. Barry Wood says:

    Hello Margy: By accident, I found your blog. I simply adore the photographs of your cabin on the water. A big wave from the other side of Canada on January 1, 2009, where we have been struck by a bad snow storm.

  16. Margy says:

    Hello Barry – A big wave back at you. We’ve had some snow at the cabin, but it’s in the process of melting now. I guess you have a few months to go. – Margy

  17. dave says:

    This is awesome! My dream for sure…

    I am looking to build something similiar on a property that I recently purchased (6 acre pond). It’s very remote and private.

    Congratulations on a wonderful house!


  18. [...] Sustainable Floating Cabin in British Columbia [...]

  19. wow is all i can say,,:o)

  20. Ian says:

    Beautiful location, lovely project, good use of materials. But where’s the bathroom/toilet?

  21. [...] on Powell Lake in coastal British Columbia, the floating house itself is almost absurdly traditional – a simple twenty-by-twenty-foot A-frame with one and a [...]

  22. [...] on Powell Lake in coastal British Columbia, the floating house itself is almost absurdly traditional – a simple twenty-by-twenty-foot A-frame with one and a [...]

  23. Michelle DuBois says:

    Hi Margy! I live in a tiny house on Tybee Island, Georgia! I absolutely adore it, but I grew up on a houseboat in Daytona Beach, Florida! This sounds like a way I can combine my two loves! Do you know if there are any areas on the East Coast that offer anything similar to what you have their on the West Coast? Or if anyone reading this knows – I would love to hear of them! Please let me know at my e-mail address – Michelleedenfield@yahoo.com! Thank you so much! Michelle (a/k/a Bikerentgirl)

  24. [...] power system of solar and wind, propane gas for refrigeration, cooking and additional lights.  Via Tiny House Blog Via [...]

  25. garagecat says:

    What a perfect location. I could do this even if I had to hike to the toidee.

    • Margy says:

      Never fear, we just added a small bathroom including a composting toilet. Now we only have to climb the hill to the outhouse if we want a better view during our contemplation time.

  26. Marcia Weber says:

    Love it! The most beautiful location in the world.

  27. Greetings, Margy. “A cabin on a lake”? How Canadian! Ah, but a cabin right on a lake…That really is innovative thinking! With minimal effort you could change your views by re-orienting your home or towing it to a new lease.

  28. [...] and Wayne Lutz live in a floating cabin on Powell Lake, British Columbia. They discovered the lake on one of their vacations from suburban [...]

  29. Carol says:

    What a beautiful place to live. I think we’ll sell the trawler and build a little place on the water..

  30. [...] stato perfetto vivere una volta conclusi i propri impegni lavorativi. Si tratta di una piccola casa galleggiante situata nella località di Powell Lake, in Canada, completamente autosufficiente nonostante non sia collegata alla rete elettrica e sia [...]

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