The Water Dwellers: Inside Central B.C.’s Floating Villages

The Water Dwellers: Inside Central B.C.’s Floating Villages

The Water Dwellers: Inside Central B.C.’s Floating Villages

Nothing beats a leisurely summer afternoon out on the water, canoeing or sailing, but could you live on water permanently?

Welcome to Simoom Sound, on Gilford Island in the Central Coast region of British Columbia, where loggers live rent-free in floating communities.

For this “vanishing breed of individualists,” this type of aquatic nomadism isn’t a whim but a necessity. Built on floats, the community’s homes and businesses can easily be moved from one spot of coast to another, following the needs of the forest industry.

WATER INS_2

Our short doc The Water Dwellers (1963) profiles this unusual gang of loggers and their unusual lifestyle.

WATER INS_1

Brilliantly shot and filled with the coast’s natural beauty, the 15-minute film takes us on a little tour around the community. We see, amongst other things, a float plane delivering the mail, children traveling to school by motorboat as well as various floating homes, including Mrs. Lane’s, with her impressive floating garden.

WATER_INS_4

WATER_INS_3

The film’s longest sequence follows a forest ranger who patrols the area aboard the Nesika, a B.C. Forest Service boat. In the summer months, the biggest threat is fire and according to the narrator, a “sense of unease fills the forest and those who live there” all through the dry season.

WATER_INS_5

Already a vanishing way of life when the film was shot, it is unclear whether anyone still lives on the water in Central British Columbia today. (Could anyone with information about this please leave a comment?)

But if someone’s still out there, moving their floating house from one moorage to another with the seasons, they are probably propelled by the very same ideals that moved Simoom Sound dwellers back in the day: a sense of mastery over one’s livelihood… and freedom.

Enjoy the film below:

The Water Dwellers, Gordon Sparling, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

For more about British Columbia, see also:

Photo Friday | Meet the Indigenous Peoples of B.C.’s Skeena River in 10 Gorgeous Pics

Friday Staff Pick: Augusta

Hobos, Hermist and Drifters | Watch 3 Short Films Starring Wise Loners of the Canadian Bush

Comments are closed.
  1. My father, Len Whalen, was a cartoonist and artist that worked on float camps in the late 20′ and thirties for my grandfather Bill Whalen (ex Whalen Pulp & Paper). My dad created 26 paintings of life in a float camp. They can be seen at http://www.rangitangs.com
    I’m creating a book, Life on the Edge, that will provide a humorous look at float camp life through stories and illustrations.

    I would love to get in touch with anyone still living the life.

  2. Was born and raised in Shawl Bay in Kincome Inlet We still have summer float cabins there that I now take my grandchildren to. I love this documentary as I knew all the people in it,they were our neighbours.It was an amazing life and at times lonely but I still yearn after the more simple lifestyle. I love how people now talk of living off the grid, we were the epitome of that lifestyle. There really was nothing like it!

    — Nora Goes,
  3. There a few floating homes left on the central coast,some holiday homes in Simoom Sound. More populated areas try to force liveaboard boats and houseboats out. This was a constant battle in Victoria’s inner harbour until the city realized that the colourful houseboats added to the character of the city. They now have water and sewage and the residents tolerate regular harbour tour boats that show off the cute houseboats to tourists.

  4. I left a message but it must of been deleted!

    — Lorraine Forberg (Brown),
  5. I am the little blonde girl on the dock and getting into the boat, at the school and on the swing! Yes people still live there! My Uncle Bill Proctor has lived his whole life there and is an expert on the area! We moved to Campbell River for school(high school) There are resorts up there and it is a popular yachting destination!

    — Lorraine Forberg (Brown),
  6. As a kid I spent many summers on the water. Seen many of these floating “communities”. One had a store as well. Most of them at that time were in the sixties and in the Rivers Inlet area of BC.
    The only floating accommodations I know of today is for a logging company, which looks like apts on a large barge up by Ocean Falls BC

    — Sandra Ossinger,
    1. The logging float camps have been replaced by high end fishing camps. Check out http://bit.ly/2bi2ffT for a view of present day Echo Bay in Simoon sound.

      — Pete,
  7. A bit contrived but otherwise an interesting flashback to life in the “gypo” logging float camps that dotted the BC coast in the 1950/60s. I think I recognized the float plane that dropped off at the camp.

    — Pete,
    1. Do you think it was a BC Airlines beaver?

      — Sandra Ossinger,
    2. Yes, The Beaver has BC Airlines colours. I was working for BC Airlines as a dispatcher in Port Hardy in the early 60’s so I may have even sent it out. PWA flew crews in from Vancouver and we took them out to the camps. Many of the camps were known as “three crew camps”, one crew working, one crew coming and one crew leaving. High turnover!

      — Pete,
  8. Very cool film about an area I always hear about – thanks!

    — Naida,
  9. Very good film about waterways and Independant people. Keep them coming please.
    Thank you very much.
    D Korte

    — Dennis Korte,