Birth & Berthing of a Float Home

by ML Burke

My most stressful time was February 23, 24, 25, 26, 2006.  This was the launch and move of my float home from the building site down the Fraser River to its permanent home (my water lot).  On a good day, it should have taken a couple of hours to launch and another four hours to tow it.  Instead it took 3 days.  I'll wade you through the drama.

Background:  House was originally to be moved into by Christmas. The builder started another large house which inadvertently blocked my house.  The pressure was on to move my house because I had rented my place (Mar 1) and had no where to go. 

  • Feb 23:  Builder realizes he doesn't have enough room to get my house out and has to hire a crane ($5,000) to lift and turn my house enough to slide it out.
  • Feb 24:  Crane comes in morning and cannot quite lift 4th corner.  Builder has under-estimated the weight.  On the phone I challenge him to deal with it one way or another. He loses it, screams, curses and yells at me. I cry. He calls in bigger crane ($6,000) which manages to turn and pull the house out. 
  • Feb 25:  Other machine launches house where a tow-boat starts down the river with it.  Gale force winds are forecast in the afternoon.  This is also the day I booked the moving van and movers to come and move me (after 27 years) from Vancouver to Ladner (Delta).  So I am very busy still packing, moving pianos, instructing movers all morning.  After lunch I get a call saying they had to do an emergency docking of my house part way down the river because of high winds. So now I have no house to move into at the other end. I arrange with the moving company to store everything in the van overnight (at considerable extra cost) and to meet me at the water lot at 9:00 AM the next day.
  • Feb 26:  I am on the bridge with my camera at 7:00 AM looking up river for my house to appear.  The tow-boat was supposed to go there at 6:00 AM to bring it the rest of the way down the river.  No sign of anything.  Phone calls.  No one knows where the tow-boat guy is.  Movers arrive at 9:00 AM.  No house, no sign of house.  I tell them to chill (at $200 /hr).  Finally, at 10:30 the house appears in the distance but it is late and the tide is ebbing (moving very fast out to sea) which means it will be tricky coming through the bridge (which has to open to let it pass).  With the tide moving, the house could overtake the tow-boat and crash into the bridge or get ahead of the boat and take it out to sea.  Also, jockeying it into its designated water lot will be difficult.  All my new neighbours are out watching this drama unfold.  Some of them jump in their boats to try to help where they can.  My builder is also in his boat with his workers.  As it comes through the bridge (fast) I see that it is the little log-salvage boat that is towing, not the larger one used the day before. 

It looks downright comical like a bathtub toy bobbing about, turning on a dime, suddenly blowing black diesel smoke as it pulls and turns and backs into the house to slow it down.  The tow-boat operator, who looks like a combo of a biker and a pirate, is in the tiny wheelhouse swirling from side to side and shouting directions at the other boats helping to guide the bucking, lurching house from breaking loose.  There is much noise of engines and shouting as the rest of us watch with anticipation as it comes fast and hard into my little water street.  I am by now numb with anxiety, fear and excitement. 

Eventually the highly skilled biker/pirate manoeuvres his mini-tugboat/hog deftly hither and fro, coaxing my reluctant house into its rightful nesting place.  The many "others" get to work tying up lines, hooking up power, water and gas lines, and soon the ever-patient movers are given the high-sign to start moving the goods from the truck onto the house.  That was around noon.  So that was my moving day/week. Something I'll never ever forget and glad to have as an experience of the past.