Category Archives: Dorothy Exploratory

Picking the (story) seams

Work is again progressing on Dorothy, even as we run this campaign to fund the documentary.

This week, Tony has picked up chisel and mallet (and all those other tools specific to boatbuilding that I can’t name here) to begin picking out the seams in earnest. He’s glad to get back to work on Dorothy again – and I must say, that after all the different skill sets I’ve had to pick up to run this kind of funding campaign, it’s frankly nice to pick up the camera again. I am, after all, a storyteller more than a campaigner!

Yesterday, Tony got to remove a big patch on Dorothy‘s starboard side to see what lay below. It was above the waterline and such an obvious repair that it stuck out like a sore thumb in every shoot we did. It was interesting to see what happened to the cotton and oakum caulking under that patch, relative to the still-intact caulking in the rest of her planks. Imagine – a twisted line of oakum and cotton with linseed oil pounded into these seams… lasting 116 years! It’s remarkable.

But we can’t tell you here, you’ll have to wait for the documentary!

Our fundraising campaign to be able to keep shooting this documentary is still on. We have raised $2,115 so far – yay! – but it’s only 20% of our goal and we have 27 days to go! We need AT LEAST $10,000 to be able to continue into this winter and next summer, when Dorothy is re-launched in Victoria in summer 2014 to sail again. Please help us spread the word about this important historical documentary – and the story of the most beautiful boat on the west coast!

Also don’t forget tomorrow is VIDEO FRIDAY, when we reveal a short clip from featuring either Tobi Elliott with a campaign update, or some footage from the film. Tune into this channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/telliottjournalist) to watch previous videos and to find out what’s on.

So please pass the word around, share on your Facebook and blogs about the campaign. It’s really easy to donate at the site: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dorothy-documentary/ and it will help us hugely! Thank you!

 For now. I’ll let some of the images from yesterday’s shoot take it away:

And… additional bonus, can anyone tell us the name of this traditional tool (or technique) used exclusively by boatbuilders? Email dorothysails [at] gmail [dot] com and your name will be entered in a draw for a prize at the end of the campaign!

Mystery thing pounded into rubrail holes-Sshot Oct 2-2013

 

 

Unearthing the stories in Dorothy’s planks

20130727-131702.jpgI’m sitting on the edge of Pilot Bay, my home on Gabriola island, watching the high tide and choppy water push and play with two sailboats anchored out in front of me. I marvel at the interplay of boats and water (even if they are only “plastic boats”) and am thankful as always for the joy Dorothy has brought to my life, personally and as a documentary subject.

I could say I’ve always loved sailing, but it wouldn’t quite be true because until 2003, when I took time out for a serendipitous 5-month cruise aboard the Afterblue in the Bahamas and Cuba and back to Toronto, I’d never sailed at all. But as an avid reader from my childhood, I loved stories of boats, particularly Dove and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the Narnia series. There’s something about the unpredictability of adventure on the sea that makes every boat story a compelling one.

So I am thrilled every day that I get to work on the story of Dorothy, because every day is a true adventure with her. As Tony (the boatbuilder restoring Dorothy for the Maritime Museum of BC) was sanding down her port side hull last week, after tediously stripping the paint, we could see a potential story in every plank, and new questions arose about construction practices of the day: Her original planks are flat-sawn, not quarter-sawn like you would typically see today. Is that because of available wood at the time, or is there a technical reason for it? Those original planks were scarfed together – was that common practice rather than butting them end-to-end? There is a mix of materials used for paying the seams – lead putty, Portland cement, and even epoxy used for patches large and small – what’s the story here?

Tony likens this unearthing of stories hidden in Dorothy‘s planks to an archaeological dig, and I would add that it’s a dig motivated less by cold scientific investigation than by human curiosity and empathy. This is not some inert, long-deserted dinosaur bone site, but a cherished family boat restored over and over again through the years by men and women who loved her and sailed her. Some had the means to give her the best in boat-building craftsmanship and the finest materials available of the day. Some simply did what they could with the tools and understanding they had, incomplete though they might have been. But no matter what finesse has been applied, it’s largely because of the heart, diligence and sacrifice of every single one of her previous owners that loved and cared for her that Dorothy can stand in Tony’s shop today, 116 years old and still able to handle a refit that will put her back in the water.

Forgive my musings, I know you probably want more practical information on the restoration itself. But I promise you, I am capturing absolutely everything I can on film so you can see the wonderful process one day yourself!

Here are some images from the sanding and paint stripping process that Tony undertook last week on her port side. This week he ‘s stripping and sanding her starboard side but no photos as I am filming it in timelapse and don’t want to mess up the shots!!

Dorothy Exploratory Part II: the Verdict

In early January, trustees John West and Eric Waal from the Maritime Museum of B.C. arrived on Gabriola to discuss Tony Grove’s discoveries regarding Dorothy. Tony had conducted an exploratory in late December which revealed the cause and extent of the century-old boat’s issues, and the trustees were about to hear the verdict, and to deliver their own about the next steps for the restoration.

John West and Eric Waal, trustees for the MMBC - photo by Tony Grove

As representatives of Dorothy‘s owner and ultimate caretaker, the Museum, and as those who know the most about her file, West and Waal will be significant voices in the documentary BETWEEN WOOD AND WATER. (I call them “the Bulldog” and “the Greyhound”.) It was Eric (above, at right) who first voiced concern over the fact that Dorothy‘s legacy fund was being depleted by storage fees, and doggedly set about bringing attention to her future. He convinced West (at left) to return to the board and between the two of them they have developed a strategy to get the old girl back into the water.

MMBC Trustees examine Dorothy with Tony G- photo by Emily Grove

That strategy happily led to her being trucked to Tony Grove’s Gabriola island shop, and allowed this documentary team to jump into the mix. (Dorothy‘s restoration – a compelling storyline that could be followed in real time – combined with her launch at the 2013 Victoria Classic Boat festival, which gives her story a suitably dramatic ending, proved an irresistible combination to this producer!)

Exploratory-Tony and Dorothy-Dec18-12-Tobi ElliottOn December 20th we documented Tony removing Dorothy‘s garboards, as written up in this previous post. So what conclusion did he draw about her condition? Is she doomed beyond repair or can she be saved without too much effort? You can read Tony’s summary in his own words at his blog post here. To keep this short I will quote his ultimate recommendation to the Museum:

“I basically had two suggestions: the first, and the cheapest, would be to put Dorothy back together with some new wood and floors and some deliberate caulking below the waterline; the second is to wood the hull, reef all the seams, repair any planking or damage, refasten where possible and re-caulk her whole hull.

The first option would allow her to sail away safely, but is not addressing her age-born ailments and she would have to be redone again possibly in a few years, or at least have ongoing heavy maintenance. The second option, which I feel is the best for her and which John and Eric prefer as well, is wood the hull (strip of all hull paint), reef all the seams, repair any planking or damage, refasten were possible and re-caulk her whole hull. At the same time we should strongly support the stem and stern to help minimize hogging, and in the end when all put back together possibly help correct any hogging which has occurred over time.” – Tony Grove

And so it was decided that the old girl will undergo an extensive restoration  – as extensive as the Museum can raise the funds for – this coming spring and summer. Tony estimates it will take approximately double the number work hours that was originally anticipated, but since it will have to be done at some point in her near future, both West and Waal decided that it might as well be done now. As the saying goes… no use putting off til tomorrow what can be done today.

For the purposes of the film, we continue to document critical points but won’t start principal photography until mid-March, when Tony actually begins her restoration. We continue to look for a broadcasting partner for the story and have some interesting possibilities, but no confirmed partners yet. Still, we believe that Dorothy is such an intriguing way to explore B.C.’s coastal history that her story will find a way to an audience, somehow. She has waited a long time for her moment to shine, and you can be sure we will be there to capture it!

Kate Bradford filming inside Dorothy Jan 2-13-photo by Emily Grove

Kate Bradford filming trustees John West and Eric Waal, along with Tony Grove, from Dorothy’s bow. Photo by Emily Grove.

Exploratory Part 1

Dorothy Exploratory-Space between planks-Tony Grove

It was important to document the process of “discovery” before Tony Grove can begin restoring Dorothy in March. He needs to know what he’s up against: how extensive the restoration will be and – more importantly for the Museum – whether it can be done in time and on budget. If her keel needed to be replaced, for example, that could mean she wouldn’t be ready for the race in September, and the Maritime Museum would have to spend more time fundraising. Much then, hinged on what Tony discovered in this exploratory.

The day finally arrived, Wednesday December 18. Kate Bradford and I (Tobi) drove through Gabriola’s first snowfall to Tony’s boat shop on the south end of the island. We had two cameras in tow: the Sony EX1 that both Kate and I use on a regular basis, and a Hero2 GoPro for getting into the odd angles and tight spots. The waterproof, shock-proof casing is invaluable and I’ve used it everywhere from snowmobiles in Nunavut and northern BC to underwater in Brazil. It’s a remarkable little invention and now we were excited to try it in the belly of Dorothy the sailboat.

Exploratory shooters Kate and Tobi-Tony Grove

Kate Bradford (left) on camera, and Tobi Elliott on sound.

We’d talked over the steps Tony would be going through the day before, but we didn’t know exactly how the process would unfold. We would be relying on the boatbuilder’s cues to properly film the unfolding drama. (On a side note: we couldn’t have asked for a better collaborator – Tony has been great with working with our timeline and the necessary constraints that a production puts on his workflow, and we’re incredibly grateful to him for that.)

Prep done, it was time to take a look for the first time beneath Dorothy‘s planks. It was a mystery even to Tony, who didn’t know what he would find. There were definite indications when looking at Dorothy from the outside that something was wrong – even a novice could tell parts of the boat seemed to be separating from one another (see image above) – but he couldn’t tell exactly what was causing it until he pried off her two garboards (the planks just above the keel) and took a look inside.

As Tony started working, Kate followed on camera while I captured sound. It proved to be both a visual feast for the camera lens as well as a rich soundscape: a wide shot of Tony approaching the boat, then closeup detail as he ran his hand over the plank he was about to separate from her ribs; the “scrape, scrape, scrape” at the paint to uncover a fastening, and “thwack!” as he dug in a clawhammer, a closeup of the tools as they dug into the wood, then “bam! bam! bam! as he pounded the claw in with another hammer; a piece of wood being shoved into the crack of the garboard plank to keep it propped open, and then “creeeeeaaakkkkk” as the decades-old copper fastening groaned at being pulled from the wood; “clink” on the floor as Tony dropped it on the cement and then the sharp “CRACK!” as the wedged plank gave another inch or two.

Dorothy Exploratory-Garboards off-Tony Grove

By day two, both of Dorothy’s garboards had been removed and Tony could see clearly what’s going on underneath.

Dorothy Exploratory underboat-Tony Grove

…. TO BE CONTINUED ….