— Pamela Roth
When David Leff opens the patio door of his 1,300 square-foot home, a small boat is floating at his feet, ready for action.
Upstairs, the views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour couldn’t get any better thanks to a wall of windows that encompass the living room and kitchen. On the outside, a pair of kayaks hang on a wall a few steps from the ocean where two seals bob in the water close to shore.
This is life at Fisherman’s Wharf, where Leff has lived with his wife for the last three-and-a-half years. Sharing a passion for the water, the couple fell in love with the community while visiting from Ottawa and started putting the wheels in motion to find a new home.
“We love it. In terms of lifestyle and community, it’s beyond our expectations,” said Leff, president of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Association.
“My wife just loves being down on the dock conversing with the tourists. She says she gets to travel all over the world through their eyes.”
The last few years have brought significant changes to the community of Fisherman’s Wharf. In the spring of 2014, the float homes were zoned to officially recognize the area as a legal float home community, giving residents confidence to make improvements and additions to their homes, rather than wonder if they’ll be booted out with nowhere to go.
Zoning the community of 33 float homes and 10 businesses (which mainly consist of food) has also allowed for increased commercial development on the main dock, which caters to more than 150,000 tourists each year. In the last three years, Leff estimates tourism has grown by at least 30 per cent largely due to an increase in cruise ships coming to Victoria.
Leff admits he gets tired of being asked the same questions by people curious about the homes, but nothing beats living on the ocean with the best views in the city.
“You do have to have a certain personality. It’s not for everyone,” said the 55-year-old, noting the homes are less affected by waves and more by wind, which twists them from side to side.
“You have to have sea legs. It’s not like a sailboat where you’re rocking back and forth, but it does move. You get used to it.”
In order to get some privacy from the curious crowds, many of the float homes have bedrooms on the main floor and living space on the second. The lower you are to the water, the less the homes sway, which Leff noted is better for sleeping.
The population of Fisherman’s Wharf is around 50 people. Many of them are single women or couples, ranging from their early 30s to 70s.
The homes are connected to sewer and water from the city and run on propane that’s delivered to their door. The largest home is around 1,600 square feet and the smallest is around 400.
An average of two to three homes are put up for sale every year. One of the homes currently on the market belongs to Jennifer Somerville, who moved to the community six years ago.
Prior to the move, the 62-year-old was visiting her daughter in Victoria and took a harbour ferry to the wharf. One of the float homes was for sale and the owner let her inside.
“As soon as I stepped in it, I thought that’s it, I have to have one of these,” said Somerville, who eventually left her job in Calgary to live in a 435 square foot, two bedroom home at Fisherman’s Wharf.
“A lot of people come down there, fall in love and want to live there. It really is a lifestyle that you are purchasing as opposed to just a piece of property.”
Putting her home on the market was an emotional decision for Somerville, who’s mainly doing it for financial reasons so she can spend more time in Alberta with her four children living there.
So far the home has had many inquiries and was recently featured on Cottage Life TV, but Somerville is still waiting for the right offer.
Given the friendliness of her neighbours and the abundance of activities in the community, Somerville admits leaving won’t be easy.
“A lot of it is the community. You have really good friends down here. You can walk down the ramp with a barbecue chicken and you have salad by the time you get home,” said Somerville, noting those who’ve moved away still stay in touch. “Once a wharfy, always a wharfy.”