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A new take on waterfront living

Floating homes a unique option for baby boomers looking to downsize

FLOATING in his new home at Mosquito Creek Marina, new owner Doug Taylor is a little low.

"Right now, we cross the moat," Taylor explains, stepping off the dock and through his front door.

The house sits lower in the water than its neighbours, but Taylor is hopeful once divers install the buoyant cubes packed with Styrofoam, the home will get a needed boost, allowing him to install a bridge between his door and the dock.

Taylor and his wife Jewel are part of a shift that has seen many baby boomers trade in the large family home for a townhouse, a condo, or in the case of the Taylors, a house on the water.

For empty nesters like Taylor, downsizing provides a bookend with that first apartment that preceded the spouse and kids who made the five-bedroom home feel small.

"Moving down is a bit more stressful because it's the family home," he explains. "The hard part of downsizing is you have to get rid of some stuff. . . . It's a real purging."

For a quarter of a century, Taylor lived near the base of Mount Seymour, but as his old friends moved out, young families moved in, and rooms in his home emptied, he sensed a change was needed.

"I did 25 years of cutting the grass," Taylor says, his voice absent of any fondness for the suburban chore.

Taylor and his wife Jewel tried living in a condo in Yaletown. After four months of the frenetic energy of downtown Vancouver, the couple packed their bags.

Standing on the deck of his home at Mosquito Creek, Taylor's view of downtown Vancouver is obscured by the mastheads and mainsails of several hundred boats bobbing in the harbour.

The view did not come easily, however. Taylor had to wait for two years before he could watch a tugboat tow his new home from the Second Narrows Bridge to its slot at the marina.

To hear Taylor tell it, the $5,000 deposit on the dock space was a small price to pay for a more efficient, economical house. Taylor is separated from his nearest neighbours by about two metres.

Other marina homes at the creek are between 885 and 1,580 square feet, with prices ranging from $425,000 to $625,000.

Taylor's 1375-squarefoot home is one of about 20 floating residences in the area, which is owned by the Squamish Nation.

"That was a little bit of a concern at the beginning," Taylor says, discussing the extremely friendly security guard who provides a buffer between the homes and visitors to the marina.

However, aside from one addition to his house, Taylor said his relationship with the band has been smooth.

"I wanted to put a hot tub on the roof but they said 'No way,'" Taylor laughs.

Instead, the house has a steam shower. Taylor's house is also equipped with a gas water heater, which is designed to allow for an endless hot water supply. The house sits on a cement base containing water and sewer pipes.

As the last wires are connected to his outdoor speakers, Taylor stands on the thick carpet of his living room, surrounded by gleaming appliances and sleek furniture.

A weathered wooden trunk sits in the centre of the living room. The heirloom is a tangible reminder of what they've left behind and what they couldn't leave behind.

This September, Taylor is planning to host two free workshops during the Boat Show at the Creek for baby boomers considering making the move to smaller accommodations.

His new home will come with challenges and his lifestyle will require adjustments, but as Taylor looks at the water outside his window, he has a single certainty: he will never have to mow the lawn again.