Hundreds of boat owners with vessels moored in Mosquito Creek Marina are facing huge financial loss and, for some, homelessness after being handed eviction notices by the North Vancouver boatyard.
In a mass email sent to 459 residents on Tuesday afternoon, Nch’?ay? Development Corporation, run by the S?wx?wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), stated it would be permanently closing a number of its docks to “develop extensive rehabilitation or redevelopment plans” for the marina.
“The state of these docks has deteriorated such that critical repairs, which will begin immediately, are needed to stabilize them for the winter,” it read.
Tenants would have to vacate their slips or moorage by May 31, 2024, it said.
Sasha Selby, who has lived on the marina with her husband and two children for almost a decade on a year-to-year lease, said the announcement has left residents blindsided.
For Selby, an artist whose home is within a classic boat stationed in a converted boat shed, with the main level designated as an art studio and the upper floor the family’s living space, being evicted means waving goodbye to both home and work space.
“This is not only ripping a home away from me, this is ripping away my studio space, my income, and all of our savings,” said Selby, fighting back tears. “What am I going to tell my children? That we’re homeless? It’s horrific.”
The financial impact is set to be severe for the hundreds of residents who have funnelled their life savings into their boathouses or boat sheds.
Odai Sirri, GM of Coal Harbour Marina and Harbour Cruises, said that with moorage already tight at marinas across the Lower Mainland, relocating options are slim to none. Many boat owners will be forced to sell, but with the market so flooded, it's likely they will have to abandon their largest assets.
“It’s a multi-year waitlist industry-wide. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere. It’s incredibly unfortunate this has happened,” he said.
Sirri said Coal Harbour Marina has fielded “at least a couple of dozen” calls from panicked Mosquito Creek residents since Tuesday evening’s announcement. Some are opting to join the lengthy waitlists, some are desperately searching for other avenues for moorage, he said.
“Anyone affected by this is going to be looking everywhere they can within a reasonable radius of their existing location. This is going to create a very significant impact on the entire industry.”
Teunis de Raat and his wife Patricia had been on a waitlist for “many years” before they were finally able to moor their 1972 sailboat at Mosquito Creek Marina in 2021. Not being live-aboards, both are quick to point out their situation is “far less severe” than those of families like Selby’s, yet the prospect of finding a new location to moor after such an extensive wait to get their current site is a daunting one.
“I don’t know what’s actually going to happen, people are going to have to abandon their properties. And these are not rich people, they’re regular, working people who have no other alternative than to rent. For some of them, it’s truly a horrible occurrence," he said.
De Raat said residents are speculating that the prompt clear out could be a nod to the development company’s liability insurance being due for a renewal. The marina has “become so dilapidated” after years of “very little effort put into any kind of maintenance” the entire area has become a safety concern, he said.
Ginger Cosner-Myers, who lived in a boat for five years before moving to her float home eight years ago, said “it feels like doomsday” at the marina.
While float homes have been deemed safe for the time being, Myers said the fear that they will soon too be given the boot is palpable. Her float home, one of 16 dock homes on affected Docks D and E at the marina, is on a yearly lease.
“People are scared, they’re scared and they’re traumatized. Everywhere I turn people are crying,” she said.
Even if Cosner-Myers and her float home neighbours do remain safe, they will lose the tight-knit, loving community that has become so integral to the residents of Mosquito Creek Marina, and that is “heartbreaking to think about,” she said.
“There really aren’t communities like ours anywhere anymore, and that’s something that should be celebrated and preserved, not dismantled and kicked to the curb.”
Selby, fighting back tears, described such a community as being “old-school '80s," where borrowing a pot of sugar is not just accepted but encouraged, children are safe to play long into the evening, and dinner parties among neighbours are a regular occurrence.
She said she is often asked what life on Mosquito Creek Marina is like, but she can rarely find the words that describe it with justice. Instead she often draws on one particularly fond memory, one from “so many amazing moments” had at the marina.
“There was a day when we very first moved here, when the kids weren’t even in school. We had been walking the dog and one of my daughters dropped her mood ring, and it fell between the cracks in the dock," she said.
Without a moment’s hesitation one long-term resident, unknown to Selby then but now a longtime friend, ran to his boat to fetch a crow bar, pried up the dock, found the ring and promptly fixed the dock back up again, she said.
“This is what people need to know, the marina is made up of these people. Salt of the earth, incredible human beings. These people who are now without a home.”
Nch’?ay? Development Corporation said their decision to shut down the docks was informed by the "findings and recommendations of an independent professional condition assessment" finalized in November.
"Our top priority in navigating this challenging situation is, without question, the safety of tenants, residents, and their assets," said a spokesperson.
"We understand that this news is having a significant impact on the community at Mosquito Creek Marina. We now have a more fulsome understanding of the reliance many community members have on the docks for their primary housing, and the full impact of this notice on those residing on boats and in boat sheds at Mosquito Creek."
In response to "new information about people currently living on their boats or in boat sheds as a primary residence," Nch’?ay? Development Corporation will be working directly with those residents to explore viable options for their homes, the spokesperson said.
"While we are currently unsure of what those options may entail, we can assure these residents that they will not find themselves without a place to live come May 31, 2024."
In coming weeks, the company will be working closely with affected stakeholders to "minimize the impact of the dock closures" as well as "impacts of the emergency repair work" that needs to happen, they said.