Step into Bev and Greg Kochuk’s new home and you would likely be struck by the spacious feel and the sight of a baby grand piano. Its presence is remarkable because their home floats in Coal Harbour.
The Kochuks moved from Guelph, Ont. to the Lower Mainland in 2011 for their third stint living here. Now both 53 years old, they wanted to make their final home near water and mountains and became residents of the 20 live-aboard slips permitted by the city in Coal Harbour.
At first they leased a townhouse on the seawall in Coal Harbour and looked at properties in Victoria and North and West Vancouver. In an effort to cross the notion off their list of possibilities, the Kochuks looked up floating homes for sale in Coal Harbour and fell in love with a 22-year-old former woodworking barge that had been transformed into a home.
"We thought we would get a house," Bev said, adding "We always thought it would be cool to live in a floating home just like that Sleepless in Seattle [movie] thing. We always thought that would be a romantic place to live and kind of an adventure."
They bought the 1,200-square-foot old barge last August, hired contractors, and moved in Jan. 15.
Visitors step down onto two-inch-thick fir floors the Kochuks refurbished to a living room with the baby grand and a kitchen they plan to redo. Climb the new floating stairs to the second floor and you see their 15-year-old daughter Hannah’s small bedroom where long drawers provide storage beneath the bed. There are two bathrooms and a master bedroom with a closet that leads to a laundry room. A patio flanks their entrance and a large rooftop deck provides views to the city, North Shore mountains and Stanley Park.
"That’s our yard," said Bev, a raw food instructor. "No cutting the grass, no shovelling snow like we used to do. All we’ve got to do is watch for the changing of the tides. That’s about the worst thing, when you carry your groceries up and down the ramp."
Even before they moved in, the Kochucks were invited to the monthly "live-aboards" dinners held at nearby restaurants.
"You will say hi to everybody because there’s always people walking up and down and you kind of watch out," Greg said. "In the townhouse, we kind of knew our next door neighbour, but that was it."
Their neighbours in nearby float homes and boats include a physician, an engineer and an elderly couple who live in Coal Harbour five months of the year and travel the rest of the time. There are six spots for float homes and 14 for live-aboard vessels.
The Kochuks love being on the water, seeing otters, herons and seals and chatting with owners of the neighbouring million-dollar yachts. They rarely use their car thanks to their proximity to shops, theatres and restaurants. Greg’s office where he works as a marketing consultant is a mere 300 steps from their home.
They also get a kick out of seeing visitors jump when they hear the boom of the nine o’clock cannon in Stanley Park.
"You feel like you’re part of Vancouver," Greg said.
They say Hannah, who buses to private school in West Vancouver, thought they were "loony" when they opted for a floating home, but she, like other family and friends, has come around to the idea.
Greg says their floating home cost less than their neighbour’s new $700,000 home next door, but the renovations brought the cost up to a comparable level. They don’t pay property taxes but pay a moorage fee of just over $1,000 a month.