Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Head beats heart in overtime: home fans "devastated"

The events described in this post took place several weeks ago. I am only just able to bring myself to write about them... 

My hilarious soon-to-be sister-in-law, K, owns a float home. (Not a house boat, which is an actual boat that you live on, but rather a log cabin-like home that floats, and that you secure to a dock. You can't drive it like you can with a boat, but you can have it towed. Carefully). 

I saw it for the first time on a cold and rainy night a couple of winters ago. We'd been invited for dinner, and showed up at the North Vancouver marina clutching flowers, a bottle of good red wine, and very complicated instructions to go to Gate E, enter a code on the security pad, go down the ramp, turn right at the hand rail covered in Christmas lights, then take the second left at the blue sail boat, and so on.

By the time we'd navigated the maze of floating walkways and found the right home, we were soaked through and freezing cold. But we were welcomed into a floating haven of light and coziness that made me fall in love at first sight.

Before I'd even taken my coat off, I turned to K and said, "if you ever decide to sell this place, CALL ME. Seriously".

Well, we got the call in September. K and my brother-in-law are selling her float home and his condo so they can buy a house; between them they have two grown-up kids, two almost teenaged boys, and a couple of large dogs, so it's time. 

Mr E Man and I were very excited by this news. We both love being in, on, and around the ocean, so this would be perfect! We could buy kayaks and tie them up to the back of the house! I would even be able to commute by boat, FFS!

We started discussing how much we could afford to pay in additional mortgage payments, factoring in the rent we could charge for our current place. 

But then we heard the asking price, as (finally) calculated by the rather lazy realtor. I was devastated; it was way more than we'd expected, and completely out of our price range. We briefly discussed selling our current place instead of renting it out in order to finance the deal, but the thing is that a float home is a depreciating asset, and there's no way we're going to give up the appreciating asset of our house*.

However, after the float home spent a few months on the market attracting very little interest, the realtor told K that it was time to drop the price. We got another phone call; at the new price, it would make more sense for K to sell the place to us directly at a further discount than to go through realtors and pay the fees on the revised price.

The excitement built again. I was all for going straight to the bank to renegotiate our mortgage, but luckily Mr E Man is much more sensible than me, and suggested that we spend a weekend at the float home before deciding. K agreed, and that's how we spent our first post-Olympics weekend.

When we walked through the door, it was just as lovely and cozy and warm as I remembered. I fell in love all over again.

The kitchen space is right by the front door

 Laid-back neighbours

Back deck. No doubt Saba, our ever so "special" cat who often falls off the sofa, would fall off this, too. But Kyrsten, who has lived on a boat with a cat, had already suggested that a fishing net would be a functional and economic investment.

Main living space. The stairs lead up to the sleeping area. The bathroom is behind the wall with the painting on it. This information will be important in a TMI section later on in this post. You have been warned...

Extreme coziness inside...

...and extreme beauty outside, even on a cloudy day

We found a great brew pub within walking distance and had a lovely evening of good food, great beer, and awesome hockey on the TV. We then strolled back to the lovely float home, threw some more logs on the fire, and snuggled together on the sofa to re-watch Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on DVD.

At this point, we were ready to call the bank.

The problems started when we went to bed. The Queen sized mattress only just fit into the sleeping space; we have a King size, and can't imagine switching back. (Yes, I'm spoiled!) But worse was to come (and here comes the TMI...) 

Mr E Man went to the loo while I was in bed, and, well, the privacy of the situation left a lot to be desired. For both of us, but especially for me. The bathroom is really nicely designed inside, but as you can see in the fourth photo in this post, it's separated from the sleeping area only by a wall of rough planks. Planks with gaps between them that let out far, far too much sound. And fumes. (Did I mention all the great beer? The brew pub does a very hoppy IPA that is delectably delicous... but dangerous). 

A married couple can get used to these things, but what happens when you have guests?! 

We had already highlighted the lack of a guest room as a problem. There's plenty of room for a sofa bed, but the whole space is open plan.We don't have guests all that often, but when they do come, they come for a long time (we have some British friends arriving on Thursday for nine days, then we have a couple of weeks off before my parents arrive for a month). Things can be frustrating enough in our current house, which has plenty of distance (and walls!) between the main and guest bedroom, but only one bathroom. My Mum in particular has a bad habit of taking very long showers without checking if anyone needs to get in ahead of her, often when I was just about to go and get ready to leave for work. In the float home, we just wouldn't be able to have long-term guests, and after that night, we were completely put off the idea of having any overnight guests at all!

Another con manifested itself at 1 am. And 2 am. And 3:30 am. And so on throughout the night. Yep; the railway tracks run right by the marina. You don't notice the sound during the day, but you sure as hell notice it when a train whistle suddenly wakes you from a deep sleep! This wouldn't be a deal breaker in and of itself; you can adjust to new noises over time. But on top of the other cons (and the smaller living and storage space; we'd be back to our apartment dwelling days of having bikes in the kitchen and skis and golf clubs in the living room), it was just a bit too much.

We agreed over breakfast at the awesome and OH, SO HEARTBREAKINGLY CLOSE! Lonsdale Quay Public Market that we should get over our state of denial and realise that we are in fact responsible grown-ups, who need to think clearly and rationally rather than basing major financial decisions on love at first sight.

But I could still feel the love. 

The news a few days later that K had hired a new, less lazy realtor who was able to almost immediately sell the float home for way more than the original September asking price, came almost as a relief. I was still in two minds, and having the decision made for me made things so much easier. And the higher price really helps out our wonderful family members, who we love truly and dearly.


But but but. 

There will always be a little part of me that regrets not following my heart and buying K's beautiful, cozy float home.Given enough time and money we could have closed up the gaps in that bathroom wall; we could have built some kind of private space for guests; we could have built an extension to the sleeping space that would accommodate our King size mattress; we could have got used to the train whistles. 

My head knows we made the right decision. But that doesn't stop me from thinking that being a grown-up really, really sucks sometimes.


*or rather the land it's built on; the actual house is old and depreciating, and according to our last property tax assessment now makes up something like 8% of the total value of the property. That's Vancouver for ya; with the border to the South, ocean to the West, and mountains to the North, the only way to build is either up or East, making land in Vancouver proper extremely valuable. This is why Mr E Man insisted we buy a house with land rather than a condo or townhouse. He really is much more sensible than I am, and also much better at pretending to be a responsible grown-up.


  1. Why in the world do you think that I was trying to dissuade you from buying a float home? I'm not just mean!

    Other than sinking (I've seen many a float home sink), the #1 reason not to live in a small space is that you CAN'T GET AWAY. Ask the girl who grew up on a boat where the washroom was 5 feet from my head. Seriously. And we didn't have doors- we had a curtain.

    SO yeah. It's not so romantic when there is more than one of you.

  2. HUH?! All I said was that you suggested I buy a fishing net if we bought the float home, so we could rescue Saba when she inevitably fell in the water! Did I accidentally use a nautical metaphor that means something different?!

    You've seen more than one float home sink?! Well, that makes me feel a bit better about not buying one (I bet it would withstand an earthquake better than our house, though).

    Yeah, small spaces can definitely be bad.

  3. Oh... (small voice) sorry I didn't read your first comment properly :)

    Is it the long weekend yet?

  4. The Finns all have summer cottages in the countryside that they retire to for a month at midsummer. Perhaps you could do something similar - buy a floating home and some marina space. You could even make it yourself.

    Of course, it would be embarrassing if it sank over the winter, but at least you'd get a blog post out of that.

  5. Mr E Man has made fully functional Viking longboats in the past (for The 13th Warrior), so I'm sure he could make a float home that at least floats temporarily. There really aren't that many places that allow float homes, though - something about zoning and permits.

    If we opt for a summer getaway rather than a permanent home, I'd rather have a boat. I've always wanted one. Mr E Man is worried about money pits (damn sensible husband), but I'm tempted to say "screw it" and get a small, second hand boat. You can always sell it, right?


  6. Oh no, I feel sad for you. I know you were really tickled with the idea. I hate it when reality interferes with a good fantasy :)

  7. "it's tough being a grown up" (make that "sensible and not deep in credit debt grown up") :)

    I second Bob's comment. Buy a summer cottage (that can work as a winter cottage *cough* Whistler) and go crazy on the laziness on the weekend!!

    Although, a boat sounds lovely considering the islands outside Vancouver and the Island and the closeness to Seattle in the south and the Prince Rupert in the north... not to mention being able to sail north to Alaska!!! :D

  8. Thanks, Mermaid! I really do still love the idea of it, but the reality is somewhat different.

    Chall, good point! We don't have any debts other than the mortgage and a couple of hundred bucks on credit cards, which is definitely A Good Thing, and the upside of being sensible and responsible and not making major financial decisions based on love at first sight!

    Yeah, the boat idea appeals because you get so much more variety. I'm not sure I'd be up for going as far as Prince Rupert, but there are so many gorgeous places closer to home. I love the idea of having a couple of kayaks on the boat, going for short day paddles, and sleeping on the big boat before moving to a new location the next day!

  9. I'm just imagining having to literally leash a toddler if I lived on that thing.


  10. Ha! Yeah, that would be wise. Not an issue for us, but it no doubt is for lots of other people!

  11. I was on a leash on the boat when I was under 2. After that, I was in a lifejacket most of the time. Do you know how many times I fell off the boat, walking backwards away from my mom, who was trying to coax me into the lifejacket? twice. yes, i was stubborn then too.

    All in all, I fell into the water 9 times before the age of 9, with varying death scares. I survived quite well though, in the end. It was not unusual for dock kids to be good swimmers, at least the ones that survived... ;)


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