Friday Cabins #70: Meet Canada's Sauna Barge
How a WWII barge was converted into a chic spa in Victoria's inner harbor
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Today, we're traveling to our good neighbor to the north, Canada, to check out a newly opened floating spa called HAVN, which features multiple saunas, hot tubs, and cold-plunges atop a defunct WWII-era barge parked in Victoria's inner harbor. Yes, you read that correctly. Floating. Saunas. (And cold plunges, for the celebrities among us.)
This one is super cool today folks, so give it a read why don’t cha, then go enjoy your weekend!
Located in the inner harbor of Victoria, B.C. HAVN is a 1-million pound barge topped with two stories of cedar saunas, outdoor showers, cold-plunge pools, hot tubs and more. Founded and designed by entrepreneur and designer Nick Van Buren with business partner Kurtis Valle, the concept was inspired by Nordic-style saunas, where spa-goers pay an entrance fee and then spend hours amongst various amenities.
Buoyed by his own experience building the Steam Mystic in 2019, a sauna built atop a 30-foot sailboat, Van Buren started to dream bigger, and after a trip with his partner to an Ontario-spa the idea really began to take shape. Around the same time, Van Buren was connected with an investor, who asked him to throw a few ideas his way and HAVN was the last idea Van Buren tentatively pulled out of his back pocket. But his sponsor was so inspired he flew out the next day to start talking.
By 2020, Van Buren and Co. were shopping for ships, but finding it hard to find one due to rising COVID prices. But another stroke of luck hit when a retiring mariner called him up to tell him he was selling all his goods, and Van Buren could come take a look. That's when Van Buren found the HAVN barge, a two-story, 34-foot-wide, 148-foot-long 1943 vessel previously used in WWII. Although the team had only planned on building out a deck, the ship was in such good condition they decided to adapt designs to integrate two floors. The vessel was then transported from Seattle to Ogden Point, Victoria, where construction began.
Having previously used reclaimed driftwood for the Steam Mystic project, Van Buren wanted to do the same with HAVN. So a friend of his with a fishing trawler went out and collected washed-up cedar trees along the northeast coast of Vancouver Island for the project, a practice that helps prevent deforestation.
The top deck, which features most of the amenities overlooking the harbor, is full of the wood, which still emanates a natural cedar aroma. Guests can wander between the three saunas, two cold pools, two hot tubs, changing rooms, outdoor showers, and lounge areas at their leisure, with a standard $75 ticket good for a three-hour stay.
The saunas themselves differ in temperature and humidity, varying from a hot, dry pine-scented sauna to a spacious sauna at a lower temperature where guests can move or stretch. Afterwards, guests can use the cold-plunge tubs, which are kept around 45°F.
Below deck is the entrance (a la the opening scene of Titanic) where guests check-in and can check out a retail boutique. There's also remaining space that Van Buren plans to convert into a yoga or event space, but right now, HAVN is focused on welcoming its first guests.