Home sweet float home: Life on the river in Ladner
I’m not a pizza delivery driver, but it would be hard to miss the Ladner home of Sandy McKellar and Kelly McCloskey. The float home, which is moored at Ladner Reach Marina, is three stories of bright red flamboyant paint looking out on the Fraser River.
The couple, who used to live in a house on the “freeway” of Arthur Drive, say moving into a float home in June of 2014 was the “best decision” they ever made.
Float homes weren’t even on their radar when they moved to Ladner eight years ago, and they only even knew of their existence from snippets in films and TV shows. But then Kelly’s mother got tickets to a historical river tour hosted by the Delta Museum and Archives.
“We were on the other side of the berm and Kelly saw the float homes and his heart was captured and he fell in love,” says Sandy, as Kelly elaborates.
“It had appeal, obviously the view of living on the water, the wildlife being in your backyard. It really struck me and reminded me of my grandmother’s place in West Vancouver that was on the beach.”
It doesn’t take very long to soak in the fact there’s plenty of wildlife living nearby these float homes. The couple say they routinely see beavers, swans, great blue herons and all types of ducks.
“Sandy loves to feed them,” says Kelly of his wife, who then interjects, “and photograph them. But they do become your ‘pets.’ They are very tame.”
Every spring the geese and swans bring their newborn babies to the marina to feast on the ample donations from float home owners.
“We would open this window here and they’d all come swimming over,” says Kelly.
Over time, they’ve gotten to know the “regulars.” There’s George the seal, Harry the heron, Baxter the duck (who is flightless), and many others.
The unobstructed view of the river is also a huge bonus for many float home owners.
So, what’s it like being on a floating building? Honestly, you can’t even tell most of the time. Unless, of course, there’s a storm. In that instance you (reportedly) feel like you’re in the back of a pickup truck going down a logging road.
“We have learned that a nor’wester really bangs you around at night,” says Sandy. “We had one two Saturdays ago and this house was a’bobbin’ and a’swingin’.”
The couple say typically the doors will slowly open and close and the motion is detectable but nothing falls over or breaks. In fact, Kelly says it can actually be very soothing after you get used to it. Sandy agrees.
“I actually walk onto the land now and I actually feel strange.”
Like so many things that happen down on the river, the storm then gives the neighbours something to talk about. With one small walkway everybody shares, conversation about the weather and other pleasantries is inevitable.
“The people that choose the floating home lifestyle are somewhat off the grid, they’re different characters, they’re salt-of-the-earth people,” says Sandy about their fellow “floaties.”
If Ladner and Tsawwassen can be considered small communities, then a float home marina is the next level down. But because float homes are so close to one another, neighbours are very respectful of each other’s privacy and whatever personal space they have.
Another question pops into my mind. Why are float homes coloured like in the Maritimes or northern territories? Nobody seems to know for sure.
“I think it reflects the personalities of the people that live around here,” ventures Sandy with a grin.
At this point you’re probably wondering, OK, what’s the price range of a float home? Well, it depends. If you’re in a marina where you buy the float home and the water lot then you can pay anywhere from $500,000 to $900,000, since you’re essentially paying for the land as well.
At Ladner Reach Marina, which owns the water lots, buyers only purchase the float home and then pay moorage to the marina, which includes services like garbage collection. In that type of situation a smaller sized float home can go as cheaply as under $300,000, with sale prices rising upwards of $550,000.
“Which is quite affordable, obviously,” says Kelly. “There’s no guarantee we’ll be able to stay here forever, but if you’re comfortable paying rent and some moorage then this is a very economical way to have a million dollar view and not have to pay a million dollars for it.”