Home on the water: Toronto man living out his dream aboard a historic ferry in Toronto harbour

One Toronto man is living out his dream of living on a boat right on the waters of Toronto Harbour. Adrian Ghobrial takes a tour of the seventeen hundred square foot unconventional home.

By Adrian Ghobrial

If you frequent Toronto’s inner harbour, you may have unknowingly walked right by one of the more interesting homes in the city.

It’s not your regular downtown dwelling, it doesn’t have a white picket fence. This residence comes with no fixed address.

Five years ago, Stuart Galloway, decided to live out a childhood dream, so he ditched his condo in the heart of Toronto and cautiously bought the NORVIC-1 — a ferry from the 1920s, that was used to shuttle passengers across the Ottawa river between Ontario and Quebec in its previous life.

The old ship was in rough shape.

“When I bought it there was no plumbing, no electricity, no bathrooms,” he said.

The purchase price was a relative steal when you factor in today’s housing prices, though Galloway prefers to keep the number private. With a wide grin he admits it cost him a lot less than a home or condo in the GTA nowadays.

“Yeah, for sure, you could say that,” he says.

That said, there’s been plenty of sweat equity poured into this historic home on the water. The boat is docked right along the inner harbour, where area residents and thousands of tourists flock each year.

We were granted permission to board the NORVIC-1, and one of the first things you realize is that blinds are essential. Standing in his kitchen Galloway laughs off the curious onlookers, regularly checking out what he’s making for “breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

There are a few other things to get used to when living on the water in one of the busiest harbourfronts in the country.

“Last summer I woke up to the sound of my refrigerator door opening,” says Galloway.

“I poke my head around the corner and there was some guy going through my refrigerator. I called 9-1-1, yelled at him and thankfully he ran back out through the front window and since then I’ve seriously upgraded my security system.”

Galloway notes that the majority of mainland folk are just curious about his floating home and he loves taking the time to entertain their curiosity, answer their questions and share his experience while trying to temper their excitement.

“I would tell them it’s the best decision I ever made, I’d also tell them not to do it because I don’t want too many neighbours,” he says.

As a teenager, Galloway bought an old sailboat for about $1,500 and lived on it for multiple summers while teaching sailing. From that point on he knew he wanted to live on the water one day. Now living out his dream, he says he’s learned a lot about himself and his outlook on life.

“I think it’s really given me a better perspective of work-life balance. Before, living in a condo, it was tough to get separation from work,” he says. “I spend my weekends now working on the boat and it gives me a great balance for both sides of my brain.”

The main floor of the NORVIC-1 now has the comforts of home. After a brisk first winter on the water, he invested in a fireplace which is now the main source of heat. He’s lived on board, chipping away at his renovations mainly with the help of his family. He figures he has another five years to go before the 1,700 square feet of living space is fully operational.

Galloway doesn’t pay property taxes for living on the water, though he pays a hefty mooring fee to the Harbourfront Centre to keep his boat tied to the shore.

The NORVIC-1 comes complete with a rooftop deck and will soon have two bedrooms and three bathrooms. In case you’re wondering, he doesn’t plan on selling or ever going back to living in a condo.

Galloway ballparks that he’s one of about 40 people living in a boat in and around Toronto’s main harbour.

“I would say it’s got its ups and downs, no pun intended,” he says. “It’s a ton of work, but even in the winter I know I’m living out my dream and it makes me so happy.”

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