Some days, Barb Desjardins misses the ability to pop out the back door in her pajamas and fiddle around in her garden. She admits she isn’t a good gardener, but still likes to throw things into the ground to see if she can make it grow.
But 11 years ago, Desjardins (the mayor of Esquimalt) and her husband traded in their home on the Gorge Waterway for a spacious 2,300-square-foot float home in Esquimalt’s Westbay Marine Village. Now her back door leads to an 18-foot boat the couple uses to drop crab traps and travel to various places in the region. The change in lifestyle never gets old.
“Living here, the beauty of this region just shouts at you. I get to see something that changes every minute of the day out here,” said Desjardins, who lives at the end of one of the docks, providing a front row view of Victoria’s harbour and an assortment of marine life.
“At night the lights of Victoria are spectacular…I can just sit here and listen to the water. I’ve always found the water sound is calming. I think I was born to be near or on the water.”
When the Desjardins decided that their property on the Gorge was too much to handle, they never gave much thought to living in a float home. They knew they wanted something new or nearly new with view of the water or at the water. Low maintenance was key.
An ad in a local newspaper about an open house for a float home in the Westbay Marine Village caught the couple’s eye. They viewed the showhome, but weren’t completely sold on the idea of not owning any land.
The marina owner suggested they spend a long weekend at a bed and breakfast in the marine village to get a feel for life on the water. By the end of the weekend, the Desjardins had made up their mind.
“It was the most incredible weather, we had a front porch and we just sat there, had a glass of wine and looked at the view,” said Desjardins, noting the pair lease the water lot, but own the house. “It’s a weird concept and it takes a bit to wrap your head around. It’s scary for people to think that they don’t have land.”
The Desjardins’ 55-tonne home was built at the Point Hope shipyard in Victoria, then floated over to Esquimalt, becoming one of the first homes in the marine village. Some of the approximately 20 homes in the four-acre water community near the west edge of Victoria’s outer harbour were built in Campbell River and brought down by barge. Others were brought in from Vancouver.
Inside the gated community, Desjardins’ colourful three-storey home includes three balconies, plenty of windows, three bedrooms, and three bathrooms, along with in-floor radiant heating and all the amenities of a regular home due to the lines that run through the marina’s docks. The house also has five piles to hold it in during bad weather, which causes the home to move.
Desjardins notices the movement during some of the storms, but has gotten used to it since it’s all part of the lifestyle. Living on the water is something the pair don’t plan on changing any time soon.
“It can be serene and I can be totally separate from the world or I can be totally included in the world. That’s my choice, living here,” said Desjardins, noting many people live on the boats scattered in between the homes. “It’s just a community where people have come for the lifestyle.”