When Jean-Michel Turbide first decided to buy a boat as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, with an idea to turn it into floating accommodation, people thought it was a crazy idea.
But now he's the owner of a popular and unique Airbnb in the middle of False Creek.
Romantic accommodation, anchored
When you hear the words "40 foot long, twin diesel 'Cruise-A-Home,'" romantic, off-grid getaways in downtown Vancouver might not leap to mind.
But Turbide has built just that. Renovating the interior and using things like solar panels to keep the noise down, it's a peaceful spot in the middle of a busy city. With a propane fire pit, patios (yes, plural), TV, Wifi, a full kitchen (including a fridge, stove, and oven) along with other amenities, it's a getaway within sight of some of Vancouver's most famous sites.
Being anchored even a bit offshore there's some wildlife as well, with a local eagle, seals, and the occasional sea lion visiting the area. That adds to his favourite part of being aboard.
"I think what I enjoy the most when I stay on the boat is the peacefulness it brings me even though I'm in the middle of the city," he says, noting he designed things to enhance that aspect. He wanted it to be more of an experience than a place to put your head at night.
While it's been dubbed a love nest, he's had groups of up to 10 sleep aboard (though they had to bring some extra sleeping gear; he has two beds set up and an air mattress on hand).
Even though winter is coming he's not too concerned since he installed a new heating system.
"There are not that many boats active like mine in the winter months," he says. "People are surprised by how warm and cozy it is."
Turbide, who's stayed in lots of hotels because of work, took what he knew from accommodations around the world and put it into the boat.
The short-term rental operator was a steward on WestJet when the pandemic hit, training to be a pilot. Both his job and education took a nose dive. Even though work stopped, school payments continued and he was considering returning to Quebec to live with his parents after eight years in B.C.
"It was a really stressful situation at first," he says. "I went from flying for work and flying in my days off to nothing."
That's when he decided to pursue an old idea.
"I had the idea [for the rental] about a year prior to buying the boat," Turbide says. "I stopped telling people about it because I was tired of people trying to discourage me."
So he decided to take his CERB and WestJet shares and go all-in on a somewhat downtrodden boat from Vancouver Island. Last year he had it towed over to the mainland and renovated the vessel into a floating cabin.
"I had to gut everything, it completely busted the budget," he says. "My family rescued me, and my friends. At that point, I was freaking out."
It didn't help that nearly every authority had to come and check it out.
"One day the fire department came on the boat; they got a call that the boat was on fire," Turbide says about one incident. "It was the fire pit, I was on board."
When they realized it was all under control they told him the pit was illegal, but Turbide wasn't so sure. As a pilot in training safety regulations were something he was keenly aware of. Because the Floating Love Nest is not a travelling love nest (it stays anchored at all times), he's allowed to have a propane fire pit. He had similar interactions with police, the city, and the coast guard, but the paperwork is in order.
It looks like the stress and anxiety were worth it though. The Floating Love Nest launched in December and has been sitting around 90 per cent occupancy.
While the price tag at $410 a night isn't cheap, Turbide says that it makes private time on the water more affordable, noting renting other, similar boats is much more expensive. One reason for the lower coast is the fact the 'nest' can't be taken for a joy ride. But Turbide notes, in his experience most yacht owners usually spend the majority of their time anchored in one spot, anyway. And False Creek has plenty to offer.
"I honestly think you're getting a better experience on my yacht than others," he says, noting the full kitchen is a rarity on the ocean.
While the Floating Love Nest is relatively new, he's already looking to expand on his nautical work with two projects.
"One of them is accommodation," he says. "One of them is about the experience, a 'sensorial' experience."