You just know a short documentary is going to be good when one of the film’s subjects says “thank you very much” when asked how he would respond to people who describe his permanent residence as “not a normal way of living.”
Indeed, it's not easy accurately describing Freedom Cove, a sprawling maritime compound that artists Catherine King and Wayne Adams have built, from the water up, over the past two decades in a secluded inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island at Cypress Bay. The teeny-tiny tourism hub of Tofino — which is easily reachable by car or bus — is a 45-minute boat ride away from King and Adams’ buoyant little patch of paradise on Clayoquot Sound.
The always-fantastic team of digital storytellers at Great Big Story recently traveled to British Columbia to profile King and Adams and describe the singular set-up as a “sustainable island fortress.”
The Huffington Post has called it “completely off-grid, off-land, off-the-chain as far as float homes go.”
The Daily Mail, in typically hyperbolic fashion, claims it to be "an incredible pink and green self-sustained floating fortress miles from civilization."
Tofino Time magazine refers to it as a "unsuspected floating wonderland of off the grid sustainable living" and a "refined and ensouled human creation in the midst of wild west coast habitat."
CityLab gets a bit more descriptive, calling it a “colorful complex of hand-hewn wooden structures includes a two-story home, four greenhouses, a lighthouse [also a shower!], an art gallery, and a dance floor.”
Whatever it is, it’s pretty special.
Weighing over 500 tons and spread out across a dozen or so interconnected pontoons that are tethered to shore by a network of lines, this far-flung full-time dwelling is essentially an outsider art environment-cum-sustainable living showcase in the form of an artificial island. Mostly, it’s just an eccentric homestead that just happens to float — floating not being an entirely unusual mode of living in the more remote stretches of B.C.
“I was hoping to make a lot more money as an artist,” Adams, a sculptor who can often be found fishing salmon for dinner from a trapdoor in his living room floor, explains in the short film. “So subsistence living was our only opportunity to have anything as artists. We could never buy real estate so we had to make our own.” He continues: “It was a great opportunity to actually move away from the city to see if we could prosper out here. Now 24 years later, we’re still doing it.”
As you'd imagine, King and Adams’ daily menu is heavy on salmon and other fish caught by Adams in the abundant waters of Cypress Bay. An array of fruits and veggies are grown year-round by King, a retired professional ballerina, in the on-site greenhouses and lush floating gardens. Water for drinking and irrigation is sourced from a nearby waterfall during the summer and a rainwater catchment system during the rest of the year.
The couple used to keep chickens at Freedom Cove although that effort came to a halt when predatory animals, some swimming from shore, began storming the brightly hued floating fortress en masse.
It’s not entirely clear where the compound's modest power needs are sourced from these days — when the HuffPo Canada checked in on Adams and King in the spring of 2015, they were relying on a small Honda generator to keep the lights on after their primary electricity source, a photovoltaic array, went belly up. Whatever the case, Freedom Cove's footprint is minuscule, Adams and King's monthly utility bills non-existent.
And just because King and Adams have eschewed city life to live off the grid in a remote stretch of wilderness doesn’t mean that they subscribe to a reclusive lifestyle. Freedom Cove — a “world of creative energy and good spirits” — can be visited as part of a chartered boat tour departing from Tofino. There are also regularly scheduled kayaking tours to Freedom Cove. The complete opposite of hermits, King and Adams enjoy sharing their off-grid wonderland on Clayoqout Sound (a largely untamed UNSECO Biosphere Reserve, by the way) with others.
Thank you very much for sharing, Great Big Story.