During our recent vacation to the Gulf Islands we found ourselves enchanted by more than just the scenery and good wind. British Columbia offers some sterling people watching and our new go-to spot has to be Bergoyne Bay. Located on the west coast of Salt Spring Island, Bergoyne Bay is long and over 300 feet deep, with rocky headlands guarding the entrance. At the head of the bay is a provincial park with waters of anchoring depth. There is great hiking and the shallow waters close to shore are warm enough for swimming with the local seals. What could be better?
I’ll tell you what could be better: people living in float homes, that’s what. Apparently British Columbia has not regulated the hell out of everything everywhere yet, at least here, because there are some particularly awesome float homes in Bergoyne Bay that are built from recycled and ‘found’ materials. Since the people who live in them are not hurting anyone else, they are allowed to exist peacefully. Likely some of these folks would be considered homeless if the government decided they were intruding on someone’s idea of a water view and kicked them out. I talked to some of the locals about the float homes and was told that there is a ‘live and let live’ attitude that exists there, although this is clearly a special case. I was glad to see that in at least one part of North America you don’t have to have 10 million dollars to enjoy waterfront living (not counting living on a boat, of course).
So let me tell you about the waterfront awesomeness that is represented in the above photo. The main structure is ferrocement. On top is a greenhouse where I am swearing to you they are growing squash (and perhaps other kinds of herbs that are more or less ‘colorful’). You can see that aside from the main structure, which is pretty spacious, there is a smaller hut, used for dining al fresco. I would have loved to tour this place but most people don’t want their homes confused with a tourist attraction, so I didn’t ask. But they are probably used to tourists staring. And photographing. I did try to be discreet as I paddled around their house, eyes wide open.
But let’s be fair when thinking about my voyeuristic ways. Consider this: We’re sitting in our cockpit in the evening having dinner, watching the shore for wildlife. I observe a man walking along the shore. He stops beside a rock and before my very eyes, he drops his pants. All the way. The full monty. Now I am completely interested, and wouldn’t you be, too? If that happened around here, someone would surely call the cops. We are in the U.S. after all. We like our nakedness on the front of magazines, not in a natural setting.
He casually wades into the water and goes for a swim, exits said water and shakes like a dog, and puts his pants back on. Apparently clothing is optional at Bergoyne Bay. Turns out this guy lives on the ferrocement floating home and he is frequently seen naked in fine weather. And playing his trumpet. That’s right! At the same time. Who wouldn’t be looking? I’m not proud; I used binoculars!
You cannot pay for this kind of ‘dinner and a show’ anywhere. Turns out the guy plays the trumpet whenever the spirit moves him. Not a song, mind you, just quick blasts of 6 or 7 notes. His woman, elfin and crone-like, yet young, plays the French Horn and they are known to do their own special B.C. rendition of Dueling Banjos, sans tune. Fabulous! I tell you I would love to have a conversation with these folks. Maybe I can wrangle an invite to tea next time.
Next door to our artistic and musical couple is this pitiful little trailer. I assumed it was abandoned because of its generally trashed out condition, but I checked with my local source and he said it wasn’t. Still, it’s hard to believe that anyone would need a sailboat that was pretty much under water. Not shown in the photo is a toilet sitting outside the front door. One can only hope he doesn’t actually use it…
On the far side of the bay was this little house. This looks like it was built all at one time, with an actual plan in mind. Inside it is nicely furnished with a full kitchen, a young child’s chalkboard easel standing in the window. That’s right. I peaked inside the window (from the dingy, mind you. I may be curious, but I hope I am not rude.) I would love to spend a summer in this place.
After our naked man experience, we kept our eyes open when sitting in the cockpit. The following evening we were rewarded once more. There was a very nice party on the beach. Some young people brought lanterns and tables, blankets and large cushions for the ground. It looked like a festive event among friends was in the offing. Soon the small crowd had gathered and the revelries began but rather than the loud drunken sort I half expected, they were quiet and respectful. You hardly really knew they were there so they didn’t really offer many opportunities for gawping. Until 5 women made their way down the beach to the area just in front of our boat, laughing and talking together and generally being women friends. Then the stripping began. Soon there were 5 aspects of Venus, splashing in the foam. Since they were my age or better, I didn’t bother to distract Mike.
We’ll have to go back to Bergoyne Bay and stay longer when we find ourselves bored with our regular lives. I was just getting the hang of the clothing optional lifestyle when we left.
By the way, if you go there, be aware of your anchor. It’s one of the only places we’ve ever had to reset the anchor because we were moving gently and slowly toward shore. Stick to the deeper water to anchor and you should be fine.
The other great people watching place is Victoria. Guest dockage in Victoria Harbour is directly in front of the Empress Hotel, that icon of genteel living. It’s worth it to go there just for that experience. This part of Victoria is filled with tourists from all over the world and thus there is much entertainment to be had. And I’m not talking about the street performers. Here are a few photos from Victoria.