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Whatever floats your boat: What it's like to live on a floating home



Photo: Joshua Huston

 

Amalia Walton, Chris Gregorich and their two children, Lilian, 8, and Max, 3, are truly going with the flow on Lake Union. The family lives in a floating home: a home that’s anchored to the dock atop a raft, and is connected to the city’s utilities and sewage system. With just over 800 square feet, their house is an exercise in efficiency — two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and living space. The kids share a separated bedroom with Lilian in the loft, which is accessed via a rope ladder and a trap door. “It boasts the best view in the house,” says Amalia. “The Space Needle and downtown all lit up at night.”

Photo: Joshua Huston

 

Does the family ever feel like the space is too tight? Amalia explains that while space is cramped, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks: “The lake and this dock is our forever home. We may need to change or remodel the house in order to accommodate two teenagers, but we can’t imagine living off the lake or away from our community. When you step off the street and onto the dock at the end of your day, you exchange the noise and grit of traditional urban living for the sweet sounds of wind and water.”

Photo: Joshua Huston

 

That water is extremely important to the floating home community, which is why the family takes pride in activities that further the health of the environment. “The privilege of living on the lake comes with the responsibility of keeping it clean,” Amalia says. They pull trash and debris out of the lake from kayaks or the dock and interact with the local wildlife. “We all stop what we’re doing to check out the fishing cormorant someone noticed, a really large or interesting boat, or the bald eagle that sits in a tree near our house. In the evenings we try to remember to walk quietly on the dock, because we might catch a glimpse of the beavers that nibble branches near the shore. We also have a resident heron, and it’s a really special day if we see an otter.”

Safety is a major concern for all parents of young kids, but is especially important for kids who live on the water. Life jackets are worn on the deck and the kids learn about safety from the beginning: wearing life jackets, confining their steps to designated safe areas, swimming lessons and safety rules. “Each child has fallen in once, thankfully at different times, but they were wearing life jackets both times, so we just pulled them out and celebrated this important rite of passage.”

Above all, this unique space allows Amalia and Chris to foster flexibility, patience and awareness in the lives of their children — virtues observed and shared on the water. “All space is shared space, and everyone is responsible for keeping it livable. It’s important to be aware of other people's feelings and to act compassionately.”

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