If you’re privileged to live where Dorothy resides, somewhere along Canada’s beautiful, sandstone and rock-strewn northwest coast, you’re just experiencing the first rush of spring. While I won’t get all sappy about buds and flowers and newly turned earth here (ok maybe just a little), when the bright afternoons start outnumbering the grey, when water sheets along the ground instead of pouring from the sky, when the sharp smell of varnish permeates every shed and boaty barn, and when mere writers think themselves poets…
Oh yes, it’s spring.
And for boat lovers and their kind it means one thing above all else: getting a boat ready for the water.
Before I get to plans for Dorothy‘s preparation this spring, let me digress a bit to expose my own ignorance of the practice of caring for a boat. While I did once spend 5 months on a sailboat called Afterblue in an adventure in the Bahamas/Cuba/US-Canada (peruse the blog here, which contains a somewhat hilarious account of our slow chase by drug runners and then the U.S. Coast Guard), I am less versed in this art of looking after a boat than I should be.
Until Dorothy came into my life, I thought boats pretty much consisted of GPS systems, depth sounders, a Coleman stove and an anchor, my territory aboard the Afterblue. The condition of a boat’s hull, the soundness of her planks and care of rigging never entered into the equation.
But Dorothy has taken me on quite a different tack. Since this whole adventure began I have been longing for a boat. Interviewing her past owners is borderline torture. Hearing over and over how delightful she was to sail, how you could feel her just “dig in” on a broad reach and power forward… How “right” she felt in the water and how close you could be to heaven if you were the one at the tiller….
Why it’s enough to drive a land-bound girl mad!
So, the cure for madness being more madness, I bought a boat. Well, it’s almost mine. I’ll pick her up this weekend. (Thank you to her previous owner, you know who you are, a lovely man who knows the value and beauty of a sound wooden boat). She’s a 15-foot wood centreboard sloop with canvas sails, built on nearby Galliano island in 1975. Very soon I’ll be joining the ranks of the varnish-obsessed, those who are privileged enough to moan about how much they must spend to keep their little yacht in sparkle and polish, and those who know the delights of a well-built boat and how it moves on the water. I cannot wait.
As for the inspiration herself, Dorothy, she stands in Tony’s shop, agelessly patient. Her caulking and chainplates are fully removed, she stands nakedly bare, patiently waiting for us to get on with her care. She reminds us of our duties with her very presence: every time Tony walks into the shop and raps his head on her fantail or her bow, he says (out loud, on occasion) “Don’t worry Dorothy, I haven’t forgotten you darlin'”.
Tony is still healing from his car accident in December, but is taking on other projects while he picks away at Dorothy. Earlier this month he consulted with Ted Knowles, who is renowned for his caulking skills, who has agreed to come over and help re-caulk Dorothy. In the next few days Tony is going to take apart some of the interior up forward to be able to get to the floor timbers and lap joint. Bit at a time, her mysteries will yield.
So tell me your stories. What are you doing to get ready for the water, or are you already out there? Races, regattas coming up? Big changes in the life of your boat?
Please email us stories and photos at dorothysails [at] gmail.com
Oh! and here’s a neat story about the rescue and excavation of what is believed to be the world’s oldest yacht, Peggy, from a cellar on the Isle of Man. Built in 1789, a full 100 years earlier than Dorothy! Video here: http://www.bbc.com/news/26653991http://www.bbc.com/news/26653991
Looking forward to happy days ahead out on the water! Yours truly, Tobi Elliott