Before we discovered float cabins on Powell Lake, we knew about the fancy floating homes in marinas such as Sausalito, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. You may have seen a float home in the movie Sleepless in Seattle. Tom Hanks and his son lived in one. Floating homes typically use steel and concrete float structures (yes, they float) rather than lashed cedar logs like the ones on Powell Lake. Float cabins were originally used for housing and buildings in remote logging camps. Coastal British Columbia is known for its fjords with steep cliffs plunging right to the sea. Building land structures would have been difficult, if not impossible. Also, floating camps allowed the operations to move easily from one logging area to the next.
In Powell Lake, float cabins were originally built by paper mill workers from the Powell River Company. Powell Riverites were heading “up the lake” to fish, hunt and just get away. Powell Lake is fjord-like ("Ancient Sea Water in Powell Lake"). The huge cedar logs for the float structures were plentiful. Wood to build the cabins and shakes for the roofs were right at hand. Floating cabins were a natural.
Float cabins on Powell Lake are much the same today. They are typically no frills cabins used by locals as weekend getaways. A few are available for rent. The cabins are attached to the shore by steel cables (preferred) or heavy rope. Cement anchors often serve as extra stabilization. As the lake rises and falls during the seasons, the cables or ropes may need to be adjusted. While a boat can tow a cabin fairly easily, they usually remain in the same place throughout their life. On occasion, you will see a cabin moving up or down the lake for repairs. Since the cabins are almost exclusively boat access only, it can be easier to do major upgrades at the marina or along the lake shore near town.
In "Weathering the Wind," you read about how our friend John created an ingenious system to dampen the strain on the cables during wind and waves. After major storms it is important to check to make sure your cabin is still attached properly.
If you want to travel around the lake and take your house with you, a houseboat is what you need. But if you love your location and want a permanent home, a float cabin would be for you. It sure is for me. -- Margy