Thursday, June 07, 2018

Float Cabin Living: Does it move?

Our float cabin soon after we purchased it.
One of the questions we often get is, “Does your float cabin move around the lake?” People think it's like a houseboat, which is understandable. Float cabins aren’t something you see every day.

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.

Cedar log float with cabin floor installed.

Floating homes typically use steel and concrete float structures (yes, they float) rather than lashed cedar logs like the ones on Powell Lake.

Floating logging camp from BC Archives.
Float cabins were originally used for housing and buildings in remote logging and fishing 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 area to the next.

Old timer still in use.
On 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 (see "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.

Stiff leg and cables to shore at low water.
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 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.

Towing a float cabin down the lake.
While a boat can tow a cabin fairly easily, they usually remain in the same place throughout their life in a leased water lot. 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 can 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 us. -- Margy

44 comments:

  1. Always an interesting post

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    1. Thanks Joe. Living here is interesting in itself. - Margy

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  2. Beautiful scenery!
    Interesting information!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Lea. I never get tired of the scenery and location. - Margy

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  3. Thanks for explaining about float cabins. We don't have anything like that in the UK although people do live on canal boats which are sometimes permanently moored but that ismore about finding a cheaper alternative to living in a house than about the views. Your location looks beautiful.

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    1. I used to have a blog friend from the UK that was converting a barge to live in. It was fun to watch the progress, but she has stopped blogging. - Margy

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  4. Nice and interesting!

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    1. Thanks Birgitta for coming over to read my post. - Margy

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  5. I had seen them made using concrete but never realised you could get them built on logs like that still. Awesome way to live

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    1. Logs are very expensive now, but in the olden days they were free from the forest. Even so, it is the best way to build a float here on the lake without facilities to build in concrete or steel. - Margy

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  6. Very interesting ! Didn't know all that !

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    1. Our cat loved the float cabin. Most of his life he was an indoor cat, but the float was a safe place to let him experience outdoor. - Margy

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  7. I did not know all that...

    Would I be living in such a way I would love to be able to move I think

    Have a splendid, ♥-warming ABC-Wednes-day / -week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♪ (ABC-W-team)
    http://melodymusic.nl/22-m

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    1. There are a few houseboats on the lake as well. Those can move around, but have to return to the marina inbetween trips. - Margy

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  8. Float houses are delightful and on Cape Ann MA as well ~ love your photos!

    Happy Days to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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    1. I didn't know they had them in the east. - Margy

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  9. Wow, this is awesome. I wonder if there are float cabins available on AirBnB.

    My ABC WEDNESDAY

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    1. I'm not sure about AirBnB but I have seen cabins on our lake available online. - Margy

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  10. Interesting. I think I's prefer solid ground.

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    1. The 40x40' float makes it very stable, even in storms. - Margy

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  11. So interesting! I did see some of the floating homes when I was in Sausalito a few months ago. I think it would be fun to stay in one.

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    1. What I like about ours is that you don't have to be in a marina right next to your neighbour. - Margy

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  12. I had to laugh at your comment about it being easier to become Canadian than to learn metric! I have been Canadian for more than 70 years but haven't learned metric except for highway speeds, and sorta/kinda temperature but not really...I know Dick likes the house to be 20C and I like it to be 22C, so we settle on 21. He was a schoolteacher, so he had to learn metric in order to teach it!
    Kay
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

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    1. I notice people my age do tend to use standard measurements vs metric. It all can be very confusing. - Margy

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  13. Very informative. I wondered about some of those things myself

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    1. Many people from our home town of Powell River ask these same questions. It's amazing how many have never gone up the lake (which ends at the townsite) or off the paved road. - Margy

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  14. I recall the float boats (which we called house boats) in Sausalito from when I lived in San Francisco a long while back. Such a calming lifestyle I thought. Once upon a time I wanted to live on one.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder

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    1. I enjoyed visiting Sausalito. It was such a quaint place. - Margy

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  15. Very interesting - I'm looking forward to reading more of your answers about your unusual, beautiful home.

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    1. Thanks for your interest. - Margy

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  16. Oh I loved this post and found you on YouTube also! Yay!! I am so interested in how these homes are built and how they work. As always wonderful photos and very uplifting to come to see your blog. Thanks so much for being a friend to me and my blog and thanks for your comments on my blog. I try to do a few comments back each day but I am far behind!

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    1. Glad you found my sites. I enjoy your blog and Facebook posts. Keep doing it if you can. - Margy

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  17. Anonymous5:46 PM

    A floating cabin is kind of fun idea! So how often do you come "in town?"
    Thanks for visiting me - you told me that they also have an Easter Monday in Canada, like in Western Europe. Have to admit that I've gotten used to a hectic life, and it would take some adjustment to slow down!

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    1. We usually come to town once a week unless there are special activities we want to participate in. We also travel a bit in the winter months to sunny spots. - Margy

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  18. Hello Margy, because this is not common in many parts of the world, we find this living very very interesting. I can only visualize the happenings and daily chores, but it is easy to just dream of it and think that it feels always like on vacation.

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    1. It does feel like we are on vacation every day, especially because we are retired and can do things at our own pace. - Margy

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  19. This is amazing! I don't do well on boats, so this probably isn't for me, but I'm glad to know this is something available. So many people would LOVE to spend time in this floating home.

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    1. We have to use a boat to get to our cabin, but on the deck it is very stable and steady in the water. - Margy

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  20. I really enjoyed hearing all the history of float cabins in BC! It is so amazing to be able to live this way, and I envy your winter garden too! I've not been successful here in Idaho with that. It is amazing how the logs and cables hold the cabin in place, and how your staircase to the shore moves as the lake levels change. It must be wonderful to have your own bathroom now too! An incredibly awesome way to live :)

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    1. I never used to have an extensive winter garden. I started by overwintering my beets and carrots and it grew from there. Thanks for stopping by to comment. - Margy

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  21. This is really interesting to me Margy -- thanks for telling us more about how your cabin works. I may have already told you that our brother and SIL now own a seasonal float home in Idaho -- we are looking forward to visiting them this summer.

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    1. You are going to really love visiting their float home. Because it is in Idaho I am guessing the water freezes during winter. - Margy

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  22. Fantastic blog. I'm curious how costly the repairs are when the float logs need replacement? Other than that, I think the main thing that has given me pause about joining float cabin ranks is the fact that you don't own the 'land'.. the government can simply not renew a lease. I have heard of float cabin owners being hassled and threatened with non-renewal over concerns about grey water. Have you heard of anything like that?

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    1. I sent you an email with lots of details. For grey water we have a multi-filter system. As you say, we don't want it going directly into the lake to be drawn back up. Plus, our lake has a constant from from the head to the outlet. - Margy

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We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy