British Columbia·Video

Meet a B.C. nomad living off the grid on a solar-powered boat

After years of travelling in a van, Simon Stiles decided to live off the grid on a solar-powered catamaran near Gabriola Island.

Life on a boat involves harsh winters and idyllic summers, says Simon Stiles

Simon Stiles lives on a solar-powered catamaran with his pitbull Honey. (Simon Stiles/CBC)

Simon Stiles describes himself as something of a nomad.

He spent a couple of years travelling in a camper van, which meant spending money on gasoline and propane to keep things going, he says. In looking for his next adventure, he knew he wanted to free himself of fossil fuels. 

His goal led him to buy a 14-metre long catamaran. Starting the project was a challenge, he says, as the twin-hulled vessel needed a lot of work. 

"It was pretty much a shipwreck," he said.

"It was totally rotten. Had I known what I know now, I would have definitely tucked tail and run away, but I was a little stubborn and also didn't know anything about boats, so I just piled into it, got to work." 

Today he lives on a solar-powered catamaran near Gabriola Island, B.C., with his trusted pitbull Honey. 

WATCH | Simon Stiles buys and repairs a sailboat


Over the last three years, Stiles has endured his fair share of stormy weather.

"It's kind of scary at night when you can't see anything, you don't know what's coming down at you," he said. "A boat could have broken loose north of you, and it could be sliding down on you and you have no idea it's coming until it hits you.

"So it's that kind of anxiety hour on hour through a storm that can be really taxing. It's not for everybody."

Those stormy days are offset by idyllic summers, he says.

"The best and worst is right there – summer and winter."

Stiles has chronicled his adventures on his YouTube channel, Finding Simon, which he says brings in between $12,000 to $15,000 a year. He does other work to earn additional income. 

He says his lifestyle allows him to explore on a modest income.

"It's not enough for someone living and paying rent on an apartment in Vancouver, for instance, but on a boat, yeah, you can make that work." 

This film is part of Unlocked: Housing stories by young Canadians, a national storytelling series by the CBC Creator Network. These personal stories, produced primarily by gen Zers and millennials, reveal the challenges young Canadians face finding affordable housing, their creative solutions and their hopes for the future. You can read more stories here.

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