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Every Marina is a Little Community

Feb 02, 2017 Editor

by Sue Stroud, citizen reporter

Linda (not her real name) has been living aboard in Brentwood Bay for four years after having been evicted with others from the Canoe Club dock when SALTS (Sail and Life Training Society) and the Harbour Ferry boats applied for space there.

“About seven to nine boats were evicted,” she recalls, “some went to Sooke, others to Pier One or the Inner Harbour and elsewhere.” Linda was the only one who came to Brentwood Bay.

“There’s no one single thing that makes someone want to be a liveaboard,” she says. For some it may be the lack of affordable housing in the community so they’ve had to find a way to house themselves. 

“Others chose livingaboard because of a desire to have a smaller ecological footprint, some just liveaboard part of the year and travel the world the rest of the time.”

Linda is a resident of Portside Marina and pays for her space and use of the marina’s washroom and shower facilities. “People think liveaboards don’t pay taxes and that is a part of the prejudice against us, but we pay commercial taxes through our marina fees just as land renters pay property taxes through the rent they pay each month. We also pay income taxes and all the other daily taxes that anyone else pays when they buy products or services in the community.”

“’Only those on moorings don’t pay taxes here, but that is not the case in other places where they pay for shore-side services such as laundry, bathrooms, showers etc.”

Linda has a teenager who finds it quite normal to live aboard and whose friends tell him it’s cool when they come aboard to visit. “It’s a beautiful place to live, it’s protected and calm most of the time and you are lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the boat,” Linda says. “Maintaining the boat isn’t as complex or demanding as maintaining a house, you only have to power-wash the lawn once a year,” she jokes, “but you do have to be watchful for leaks and maintain your lines.”

The downside, she says with a laugh, is not being able to watch movies with subtitles because that’ll make you seasick and of course the occasional big storm. “When that happens many of us sit up and watch for boats that might snap loose or sink; liveaboards see and hear what’s going on and can call for help from neighbours or authorities as needed.”

Linda acknowledges the public concern about sewage being dumped in local waters. “We are frequently accused of this, but very few actually do it. Most have holding tanks which are pumped out by the Butchart Gardens pump boat (the local Pumpty Dumpty maintained by the Saanich Inlet Protection Society died of old age awhile back), some use facilities onshore at the marina, others use port-a-potties.  Some with holding tanks have the Butchart pump boat come by weekly in the winter and twice a week in the summer.

“Unfortunately it’s not illegal to put sewage in the Inlet. If it were we could report the few who do, but that’s not the case right now.

“People forget that boats aren’t the only source of sewage and other pollutant releases into the Inlet. Last year there was a spill from the sewage system at Coles Bay and 6,000 gallons were dumped into the water.” The sewage spill made the local news for a few days and then was forgotten.

“Ironically the pumping station at Victoria feeds into the city sewer system which is strained and then goes to Clover Point to be dumped into the ocean.”

Linda points out the many inconsistencies in law and jurisdiction, even in the definitions of the boats. “A wreck or an abandoned vessel must be dealt with by the Receiver of Wrecks,” she says. “Derelict isn’t a legal definition – just a term used for any boat someone thinks is unsightly. 

“We all hate the derelicts, but we resent being lumped together with them as part of the same problem. People don’t live on derelicts and if they did, why wouldn’t the response be ‘what’s gone wrong, how can we help, they must be in need.’ It’s really a vocal few that complain as in any community, but it means we have to be very quiet when really we should be consulted because we have good ideas and we can help with problem solving.”

“Every marina is a little community,” says Linda. “We look out for each other and for each others’ boats. Brentwood Bay is a particularly good little group, we do things together, have social events, do winemaking, we get along very well. Two people stop and chat on the dock and before you know it a potluck BBQ has popped up.”

Linda’s voice is this is not alone, nor is her respect for community. In 2010 the BC Nautical Residents Association was founded by a group of liveaboard boaters to encourage responsible living aboard. They help to find solutions to issues faced by people who live on the water, serve as advocates for liveaboards’ right to live on their vessels and have a published Liveaboard Code of Ethics.

You can find out more about the liveaboard community on their website.


Liveaboards, squatters and derelict boats

Liveaboards, squatters and derelict boats have attracted much attention in the Capital Region for many years. So while the subject is not new, it is still very topical.

In a series of upcoming articles Saanich Voice Online (SVO) will attempt to give voice to all sides of the issue: the liveaboarders, the derelict boat owners and the people who are also affected by these choices. We hope to offer a more fulsome look at the issues around living on the water and in community. We hope that our comments section here and Facebook Page will offer a space for respectful debate. SVO also invites article submissions for publication consideration.

Other articles on the issue:
Water Squatters Rile Neighbours – SVO, June 2011
Ahoy There –SVO, June 2011
Fearing floating shantytowns of derelict vessels, B.C. towns crack down on ‘liveaboard’ boatersNational Post, Oct 2012

More links coming soon.