The Boathouse

Okanagan Landing, Vernon, BC

The current boathouse (2008)

In 1997 I packed up and headed back to the Okanagan for the summer. I hadn't been there for a few years and it was the first time I really paid any notice to the old boathouse down the beach from the family cabin, both of which had been around for 70 years, hidden amongst the trees — the cabin housing my mother and her sisters, and then my sister and I as we grew up, and the boathouse neglected and hiding a rotten, half-finished cruiser abandoned around 1940.

The boathouse, and the cabin, were built by my great-grandfather in the early 30s, the boathouse originally positioned to the south of the cabin, right at the water's edge, as any boathouse would be.

The original boathouse (1907)

For most of my life, however, the boathouse didn't exist. It had long become simply part of the environment, an old shed engulfed in trees, and it will never cease to amaze me that we didn't climb in as kids to snoop around, but for all intents and purposes, it wasn't there.

In 1997, however, it dawned on me that the boathouse could be transformed into something, into a small room at the edge of the lake where I could relax, read, and maybe get some writing done. So after dragging the carcass of the boat out and setting it aflame, I spent the next few weeks gutting the old building, digging out the dirt floor, putting in a few windows, nailing together a desk from old beach-wood. It was a great few weeks, sitting at the window and listening to the lake, but then I was off back to Victoria for university.

This incarnation of the boathouse, however, was short-lived. The next year Okanagan Lake flooded to its highest point in 50 years, and the boathouse was trashed. What was left of the building's footings were loosened and rotted out in the sand, and the entire structure could be easily pushed from side to side. I did my best to get it back to working condition, but I new it was on its last legs.

During the summer of 2001, while hosting that year's Greenboathouse Reading Series, it was decided that sooner or later we were going to have to sell the piece of property that the boathouse was on. We weren't in any rush, but it seemed wise to address the situation.

The boathouse dismantled...

That summer I stripped the boathouse down to its frame, carefully plotting each board's removal, and rebuilt it anew at the other end of the property, raising the roof a foot or two and building in a new floor, a new window, and some great new driftwood front steps, but every piece of wood on the outside is still the original goods.

The door of the boathouse... The current boathouse (2008)

It was during this time (1997-2001) that Greenboathouse Books came into existence, as it was this place that housed me during the summers when I began to get interested in publishing and book design, and it was here that I sat up nights sewing our first projects together. It is still the boathouse that I return to every summer, to read, relax and get some woodworking done, and although Greenboathouse Press is now housed in a more convenient and appropriate studio behind the house in-town, it is the boathouse that inspired the idea.

 

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Origins

The original property, located just outside of Vernon on the north end of Okanagan Lake, was purchased by my great-great grandfather just after the turn of the 20th century. Comprised of what is now considered 4 residential lots, the cabin was situated in the middle, with a plot of natural growth on either side. Over the years, as development in the Okanagan flourished, the lakeshore became more and more congested, with the exception of this small section of trees and its old rickety cabin set humbly between.

Despite decades of attempted improvement, the property looks much the same as it always has, although in 2007 we were forced to sell the lot to the south of the cabin due to ever increasing property taxes. Recently, the cabin was also raised to build-in a basement with, for the first time, the fancy-schmancy modern convenience of running water.

By the way, all of the pictures in the main column are of the boathouse, not the cabin. Here's a small shot of the cabin...

The cabin...