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Home with a waterfront view
It was enough to make anyone look twice: A 70-foot by 75-foot, two story house perched awkwardly atop a barge, being pushed resolutely through Eagle Harbor.
Spectators lined docks and shorelines Tuesday afternoon for the sight of a 3,400 square-foot house, originally built on Rockaway Beach, being pushed to a building site at the head of the harbor.
An escort of pleasure boats trailed the barge as it wound through the anchorage. A small helicopter carrying a camera man for the British TV series “Monster Moves” buzzed low over the harbor, occasionally hovering alongside the house for a closeup shot.
The house, which had been painstakingly balanced on the barge by a crew from the Vancouver, B.C.-based Nickel Brothers moving company, appeared precarious to onlookers.
Even Geoff Daigle, the home’s new owner, said he was a little taken aback when he saw the size of platform his house rested on.
“The barge looked kind of small, which I didn’t expect,” said Daigle, who runs a design company on Bainbridge with his wife, Candace. “It looked a bit like an aircraft carrier with the kitchen hanging over the side. It looked like the deck of the Abraham Lincoln.”
This was the second time the Daigles have had a home floated in, as a way of saving on construction costs while recycling a building.
Their current residence on Miller Bay (near Indianola) also began life on Bainbridge and was barged across Rich Passage by Nickel Brothers in 2002.
When the couple decided to make the move to Bainbridge, they purchased a lot on Eagle Harbor Drive and began looking for another house to move.
Nickel Brothers, which moves about 300 houses annually, linked the Daigles with a Bainbridge couple who were looking to remove the 19-year-old house and construct a custom home.
“They were very kind to let us have their house brought over and recycled,” Daigle said.
Moving the house saved the original owners the expense of demolition, which runs in the tens of thousands.
And even with the price of site preparation and utility hookups, it cost the Daigles roughly half of the cost of building a new house. Beyond monetary value, Geoff estimates the move saved 75 trees-worth of lumber.
The move began before dawn Tuesday when the house was loaded onto the barge and pushed from Rockaway Beach to the mouth of Eagle Harbor.
Jeff McCord of Nickel Brothers’ Seattle office said the crew had to wait for a day with extreme high tides in order to float the house into the shallows.
When the tide rose in the afternoon, a tugboat pushed the barge past the ferry terminal and through the maze of anchored boats, toward the head of the bay.
There, movers would have only 90 minutes to unload the house without becoming mired in the mud.
As the barge crawled across the harbor, the helicopter hired by Monster Moves put on a show of its own, making high-speed passes over the harbor, flying low enough to scare seagulls from pilings.
“The helicopter was absolutely extraordinary,” said Monster Move producer Duncan Bulling. “A person from one of the boats, who sounded like an old captain, told our camera man he hadn’t seen flying like that since ‘Nam.’”
Bulling said he and his crew were lured to Bainbridge by the prospect of filming a house being moved in a dramatic setting.
Plus, he said, the narrow time window the moving crew had for delivering the house without becoming mired in the mud added suspense.
“We always like drama,” he said.
Luckily for the Daigles, the house’s passage was largely drama-free.
After successfully navigating the harbor’s shallow neck, the barge arrived at the head of the harbor where the truck and house were unloaded on a 40-foot-wide steel ramp. Truck and house were driven the short distance across the road to the building site on the hill.
The hair-raising portion of the move is over, but plenty of work remains.
A foundation will be built beneath the house while it rests on cribbing; soils stored on the back of the site will be replaced and utilities will be attached. The Daigles expect to move in sometime next spring.
For islanders who missed seeing Daigle’s house navigate Eagle Harbor, the Monster Moves episode will appear on National Geographic channel “sometime in the new year,” Bulling said.
After wrapping up filming on Bainbridge, the Monster Moves crew will be jetting back to St. Louis, where a 2,000-ton riverboat is being hauled 80 miles inland.
“It’s big and it’s unlikely,” Bulling said. “Basically if something’s really big and really unlikely, we’ll be there.”