I stepped off the small boat mystified, with my eyes fixated on a blue heron conspicuously pretending to be ignoring us—in the way herons are wont to do—from a safe distance behind Alistair and Eleanor’s home. The 40-minute glide on the waters of the shadowy inlet had been swift but smooth, punctuated by the predictable sights, smells, and tones of Clayoquot Sound: cedars overcrowding next of kin in search of gleams of sunshine, docks covered in a slimy sheen of freshly-spilt sockeye blood mixed with seagull shit, and stunted swells meeting the impassable resistance of rambling channels and coves. No element of the postcard-perfect but thoroughly familiar waterscape seemed to stand out the way the house did though, as if hovering weightlessly upon the glassy ocean surface. Feeling awestruck at the incongruous architectural sight I wondered for a moment whether the crane-like bird wasn’t indeed as baffled.
“He’s our neighbor,” said Alistair laconically.
“Must be nice to have discreet neighbors like that,” I joked.
“Better than the otters! They’re cute, but when you live in a floating home, otters are like 30-pound rats swimming under your house and chewing away your foundations.”
I plodded unevenly on the walking path while Alistair tied up the skiff on his own. A long but narrow—three and a half feet at most—wooden plank rendered slippery by the morning’s moisture separated the front door from the mooring area. As Eleanor opened the door I cast a glance straight across the living room and out through the large window on the opposite side of the house. And saw water. Cold Pacific Ocean water drifted east, west, north, and south of every wall and every window. No driveway. No fence. No adjacent buildings. No hanging phone or cable or power lines. There it was: a rancher on pontoons, right in middle of the wilderness. Shadowed by massive cedars, with its image perfectly mirrored in the still, shallow, crystalline water surrounding it, dwarfed by the vertical walls of Vancouver Island’s Bedingfield Range, Eleanor and Alistair’s solar and wind-powered float-house only conceded ingress to the rest of the noisy world in the form of a radio, cell phone, and internet airwaves. Aside from the ropes anchoring it on terra firma it was wholly cut off; the epitome of off-grid.