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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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