Category Archives: Maritime heritage

Victoria Classic Boat Festival Memories

TEAL stern

It’s been a month since boat show season ended in the Pacific Northwest. Some of you are hopefully still on the water, while others are buttoning down for the winter.

Wait, did I say winter? It can’t be! Forget that – it’s still glorious fall in the PNW! You still time to get out on the water if, like me, your boat is waiting for you but you only put the sails up … once… and haven’t actually gone sailing yet. (My excuses are pitiful. Believe me, I know I do a disservice to anyone who lives in the prairies when I let a whole summer go by without sailing. If there’s one thing DOROTHY has taught me, it’s that experiencing life with a boat is better than without!)

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So let’s think of kinder, warmer things, like boat shows! We had a fantastic time at this year’s Victoria Classic Boat Festival, the 40th annual. While nothing could make up for the absence of John West, a key founder and integral, energetic part of the festival over its four decades, the sun shone bright on the docks full of beautiful boats and interested visitors.

It was the first year the Maritime Museum of B.C. took the helm and led the organization and programming, and they did an admirable job running the show. Congratulations!

DOROTHY was on hand in spirit, if not in physical form. As it was her 120th anniversary, we celebrated with cake in the hall of the MMBC, and a hearty Happy Birthday.

To make sure she was present “on the docks”, we hosted a table Saturday and Sunday with promotional materials, photographs and new 2018 calendars and anniversary T-shirts for sale. I was delighted that former owner Angus Matthews was able to join me on Sunday to chat with people on the docks.

It was interesting to hear the response when we asked people whether they had heard of “Canada’s oldest sailboat”. Most said, no, but were intrigued. Then we’d ask where they were from and roughly half the time, they were from Victoria! I realized there are two distinct groups in this small but passionate boat community: those who have been following the Dorothy adventure closely, and those who don’t know anything about her story at all.

I feel we have a lot of work to do in getting the Dorothy story out there. If you want to help with our mission of keeping her memory alive while the committee continues to raise funds for the rest of the restoration, you can help! We still have 2018 Anniversary Calendars for sale, with images ranging from the MMBC archives, her sailing in the 1920s-40s and 1980s, contemporary photos in Tony Grove’s shop, and even an exclusive shot of her from the Langley family that has never before been released to the public.

Or, get our NEW T-shirt (Maroon and Heather Grey) with her anniversary dates 1897-2017. Send one to your friends, family members, or enemies, and tell them the story of DOROTHY. Or get an art card for Christmas mailouts, we have 6 different beautiful art cards. Email me at dorothysails@gmail.com for prices and orders. Christmas is just around the corner!

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After costs, proceeds are split between the restoration fund and the documentary, Between Wood and Water.

For our Victoria boat show round up, the best thing from my perspective was the raft of forestry boats and workboats, most from British Columbia but a few from down south. I love their stories.

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I was intrigued to find out that restored B.C. forestry boats outnumber U.S. boats about three to one. One notable exception is the 90-year old TEAL (image up top) which has a rich history patrolling the Alaskan coast and is now docked at Friday Harbor, WA. She won Best Conversion.

It seemed like there were less sailboats than usual – perhaps because ORIOLE and MARTHA were missing (and perhaps it’s my biased eyes that want to see sailboats everywhere!) – but there were an amazing representation of all kinds of classic boats to grace the docks.

Here were some of the awards handed out:

  • Best Restored Power: the 1963 FLYING EAGLE, a Maine Lobsterboat that travelled to the west coast and was authentically restored by Rick Strollo;
  • Best Restored Sailboat: ISOBAR, with TEAKBIRD getting Honorable Mention (restored by our friends at Abernathy and Gaudin);
  • Oldest Powerboat: 1917 OCEAN BELLE;
  • Oldest Sailboat: 1922 LOON (which was also built by J.J. Robinson, DOROTHY’s builder);
  • Best Overall Powerboat: DEERLEAP;
  • Best Overall Sailboat: PACIFIC GRACE.

The second best thing about the festival was hanging out with our friends Eric and Steve from OFFCENTERHARBOR.com. They were doing double duty as boat oglers and storytellers, getting some juicy bits on their favourite boats in the PNW. We love OCH videos, and if you haven’t checked them out yet, you should definitely subscribe because they feature not only the hottest boats, but the best stories on people making and restoring them.

Look for them to feature PACIFIC, MESSENGER III and STITCH – all workboats of some kind – in the coming weeks.

So that’s it for our boat show season – how was yours? Did you participate? Drop us a line or write a comment if you have a story to tell. Because after all, next to an insane desire to drop 1000s of dollars on our beloved vessels, the stories we get to tell about them is the next best reason to own them, right?

If you have friends, neighbours or family members that don’t know about Canada’s oldest functioning, Canadian-made sailboat, consider giving them a Dorothy-related gift this year and helping us spread the word.

Thank you Friends! And happy sailing!

Tobi

 

Port Townsend Boat Show Photo Round Up

Hi Dorothy fans,

Having just got back from the 41st Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, I can’t wait to show you some of the beauty. I have to say: a weekend is not enough time to see and absorb all the wooden boatiness that was to be seen! And the weather was truly PNW style: everything from wet and drizzly to dazzlingly sunny.

Here are some of my favourite shots:

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Friday night at rest in Point Hudson Harbour

Saturday was mostly a grey day, but no one in the PNW would shy away from getting on the water just because of a lack of sun!

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Slim bow of the 1926 Ted Geary-built “Pirate”. Mouthwatering. Follow Dorothy on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dorothysails1897/

Saturday night we had a spectacular full rainbow…
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and Sunday morning dawned perfectly bright and glorious…

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Sunday morning we witnessed the tradition of the bell ringing for those who crossed the bar in 2017. It hit all of of us particularly hard this year, as Johnny West was named and remembered. Carol Hasse did a beautiful job simply naming those who are missing among our nautical community. (I’ll post a video of the ceremony as soon as I get my new website, with lots of room for video, up and running.

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This email is overly long already, but before I close I wanted to post some hearty thanks:

  • to our friends Capt Bill and Brother Jim (his official title) who helped and hosted the Canadian (transient) population aboard Messenger III:

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  • to Hasse (can’t get a picture of her, she moves too quick!) aboard her ever-classy folkboat Lorraine:

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  • to Don and Janet who let many stay in their “Fish Holdtel” aboard Pacific and are always great fun to be with:

Fish Holdtel

  • to Michael aboard Stitch
  • and finally a massive shout out and many thanks for the good times to the Off Center Harbor crew, Steve Stone (pictured below left) and Eric Blake, who came out from Maine to spend their days collecting stories about our west coast fishboats, forestry boats and mission boats – which will come out soon in some spectacular video series on their website. If you haven’t signed up for their videos, you should definitely check it out because they do have the BEST boat video website going.

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And finally, if you aren’t following Dorothy’s Instagram account @dorothysails1897, you’re missing out on some action!

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A 1945 Norwegian Langesund sailing skiff called Havhesten, 19 ft of beauty. Oh so lovely! #sailing #skiff #porttownsend #pnwunplugged #pnwlife #woodenboat #woodenboatfestival #smallboats #classicboat #norwegian #dorothysails #dorothyatfest

I will follow up on news from Victoria’s Classic Boat Festival in the next few days, as well as info about how to order our new Anniversary Tees (1897-2017 = 120 years old!) and 2018 Calendars and Art Cards.

Til then, may fair winds keep you in good spirits and bright heart!

Tobi, Tony and Dorothy

40th Annual Classic Boat Festival: Here we go!

We (as in, Tobi Elliott in her ’67 classic red Volkswagen bug, and Tony Grove and Dorothy-in-spirit) are on our way down to Victoria from Gabriola to celebrate the 40th annual CLASSIC BOAT FESTIVAL!!! Can you tell I’m a wee bit excited??!

I have a host of beautiful new swag to share, among them a special anniversary t-shirt, and a 2018 Calendar because, as you know, the grand dame of classic boats, our own Dorothy, is 120 years old!

The calendar includes some photos that have never been seen before, including this image held by the Langley family (above). I am so happy to be able to share this precious legacy of 120 years of (almost) continuous sailing on the BC Coast!

In 2014, Kate Bradford and I had the opportunity to shoot on the docks of the Classic Boat Festival, and since only a fraction of that footage will be used in the upcoming film about Dorothy’s restoration, I decided to put together a special anniversary video featuring some of my favourite shots from the docks and the water.

It also honours our dear friend John West, who was a champion of all things heritage, maritime and water-related. As one of the founders of the Classic Boat Festival, his presence this year will be deeply missed. You can view the video only on Facebook, so head over to the Dorothy Documentary page to watch it! And please like and share the ❤️

I’ll be posting to that page and to Instagram (follow Dorothysails1897 and tag me #dorothyatfest) as well throughout the Festival, so if you can’t physically make it down, you can participate vicariously and enjoy the sights and sounds along with me.

Hope to see you there!

Tobi, Rojo the bug and Dorothy-in-spirit

Happy Birthday Dorothy!!!

Celebration cake – Dorothy’s 100th anniversary in 1997. Courtesy of the Maritime Museum of B.C.

On a hot July evening in 1897, a sleek wooden yacht was launched in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, an event the Times Colonist noted the next day:

Last evening witnessed the launching of the yacht Dorothy, belonging to Mr. W. H. Langley, captain of the Victoria Yacht Club. There was quite a large number of interested spectators who cheered lustily as, after having been very gracefully christened by Mrs. A.J. Weaver-Bridgman, the little yacht took to the water in a series of lively and pretty leaps. Every credit for the success of the launch is due to her builder, Mr. J. Robinson. The Dorothy is a single-handed cruiser designed by Linton Hope of the Thames Yacht Building Company…Times Colonist, July 27th, 1897.

As part of Victoria’s rising middle class that began to have time for leisure activities like sailing, Langley was eager to make his mark with a boat that was fast. He wrote to the designer of two yachts he liked the look of, and, after two years and many, many letters back and forth, Dorothy was born. Little did he know that his “little yacht” would survive to be the oldest registered sailboat in Canada.

The Victoria Yacht Club, Dorothy anchored at the far right. From A Century of Sailing.

The reasons Dorothy outlasted all of her peers are many – sheer luck among them – but chiefly, it’s believed she’s still alive because she was actively sailed. A wooden boat needs time, care and a life on the water, and Dorothy had heaps of that during her 12 decades on the coast.

But she had many near-failures too, surviving both World Wars, amateur repairs and periods of neglect, but somehow always seemed to pull through. Somehow, a champion always found her, fell in love with her lovely lines, and spent more time and energy than they had intended to keep her alive.

Her list of owners is surprisingly short, beginning with Langley and ending with the Maritime Museum of B.C. Langley sold her in 1944 to Linton Saver of New Westminister, where she was entered into the Ship’s Registrar, and she remained in Vancouver under a quick succession of six owners, from Robert Minty, who renamed her “JimboJack”, to the brothers G.W. and Kirby Burnett, who sailed her with the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. During this period she had an alcohol fire in her cockpit that nearly destroyed her. Finally, Phillip Harrison sold her in 1964 to a young pair of Victoria architects, Chuck and Pam Charlesworth, who brought the yacht back to her birthplace.

With the Charlesworths, Dorothy began perhaps the best years of her life as the couple sank what little resources and time they had into a boat they could hardly take out to sail, she had so many structural issues. Charlesworth almost gave up, but on the advice of experienced boat surveyor Tom Hood, he became convinced the boat was worth saving. “He advised me to continue my endeavours,” wrote Charlesworth. “He went on to explain that the boat had originally been well built and was of a superior design well in advance of its time, [and] even if it took me ten years, I would have saved a very special boat.”

Charlesworth’s daughter Jennifer remembers one particular sail when she and her father took Dorothy out alone, and he experienced such joy at the helm that she knew it had made all the years of repair and struggle worthwhile. Sandy and Angus Matthews, who courted Charlesworth in order to get first dibs should he ever decide to sell Dorothy, were her next custodians and they did work on her interior, re-did her decks and hatches, and got her a new suit of sails. David Baker and Su Russell completely reworked her rigging, parcelling and serving in the traditional way, and showed her at Expo ’86.

Dorothy’s luck held, even after being sold to the owner of a private marina in Sidney who left her out in all weather and let freshwater get in her cockpit. She was restored again to sailing condition by Hugh Campbell of Winward Woods, and finally donated to the Maritime Museum of B.C. in 1995, sailing proudly as the flagship vessel for her 100th anniversary.

Dorothy’s current “mid-life refit” is undoubtedly the most intensive restoration she has ever undergone. Still, Tony Grove, the shipwright tasked with the job, has only had to replace two garboard planks and a short aft plank. Dorothy is still 90% original wood – the same red cedar planks that were pulled from trees in the surrounding area have endured to this day, still soft and containing the magic malleability that good wood can still have after 120 years.

It’s miraculous, in a way, that Dorothy has survived all these years, and yet not. She survived so long precisely because good, ordinary men and women offered their time and energy to preserve and lengthen the life of a beautiful, functional work of art. She is here because they were there for her.

Her beauty also contributed to her longevity. As John West put it, “because she’s pretty, she’s lasted and been looked after. Not only was she pretty, but she was structurally extremely well-engineered, and she was built by first-rate craftsmen. And it’s incumbent on us to pass her on to the next generations. And she should leave our generation in better shape than she arrived in.”

Matthews, who currently heads up Dorothy’s restoration committee, is full of confidence she will find her way. “Dorothy has been here before. Somehow always finding herself in the hands or people who give the love she needs for rebirth and renewal.”

September 1982 off Brotchie Ledge at the entrance to Victoria Harbour. Alec (age 4) and Angus Matthews were sailing her to the Victoria Classic Boat Festival. Courtesy of Angus Matthews.

Join us in underwriting Dorothy’s next chapter by making a tax-deductible charitable donation. Please contact Angus Matthews angus@angusmatthews.com to learn how you can make certain Dorothy will sail on into her next 120 years. 

Long may she continue to find her champions, to be stewarded with love, and to inspire people to head out to the sea.

Happy Birthday Dorothy!

Remembering John West: yachtsman, historian, boat encyclopaedia

John West interview in memoriam

On May 17, 2017, the Victoria community, the yachting community and his loving friends and family lost a great friend, John West.

He was a beloved husband to Bonnie, step-father to Sean and a friend to so very many, including Dorothy, a boat that will be forever in his debt.

A tireless source of maritime history and classic boats, John was a champion of British Columbia heritage and culture. He had given much of his time and energy to BC Heritage Society, the Victoria Heritage Foundation, the St. Barnabas Anglican Church and not least, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. He was one of the main founders of the Victoria Classic Boat Festival in 1977, serving as chair from 1998 until 2005 and later as judging coordinator, imparting his deep knowledge of classic vessels.

John and Eric

We got to interview John several times between 2013 to 2016, as he was one of the champions who spearheaded the drive to get Dorothy out of storage and back into the public eye. He knew almost every detail about her design and history, and would recount stories culled from the logs of her previous owners as if he was there. More than that though, we hoped to be able to capture a portion of his passion for history and the tales that classic boats, in general, can tell about our culture and our collective history.

John West and Eric Waal, trustees for the MMBC - photo by Tony GroveJan2-13-Kate cam inside Dot-Emily GroveMMBC Trustees examine Dorothy with Tony G- photo by Emily Grove

You can read his obituary here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timescolonist/obituary.aspx?n=john-west&pid=185467234 The memorial will be held tomorrow, Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 1:00 PM. A reception will follow at the Inn at Laurel Point, 680 Montreal St., at 4:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the BC Cancer Agency and/or The Maritime Museum of B.C. (634 Humbolt St., Victoria, BC V8W 1A4) in the name of John West.

You were one of the great ones, Johnny, and you, and your Cowichan sweater and your wizard brain about boats, will be forever missed.

Classic Boat Festival 2016

We made it! It’s that time of year again, and we couldn’t be happier. And after a pounding rain all night, the weather saw fit to cooperate with some glorious sun in time for the opening of the 39th Classic Boat Festival in Victoria. 

It’s such an honour to be here and to be mingling with people who are passionate about boats and, in many cases, have done so much to preserve and promote their own gorgeous vessels. I know from documenting Dorothy’s story that keeping a classic boat alive – especially a wooden boat – often calls for a sacrifice of time, energy and resources that people can only give if they’re in it for the love of their vessel. 

I’ll be here all weekend with materials and T-shirts promoting the documentary and Dorothy‘s restoration status. Tony Grove is judging boats in the festival, and everyone else is just enjoying walking the docks in the sunshine. 

Happy Labour Day weekend, everyone!

Ps I had to sneak in a shot of my second all-time favourite boat, Martha. She is looking just (sigh) as gorgeous as ever. I am holding on to hope that one day soon she and Dorothy will sail side by side. 

– Tobi 

    
 

Our gal is 119 years, and counting

First, some background:

In about one month, it will be 119 years since Dorothy was launched into Victoria’s harbour waters for the first time, July 26, 1897. The news made the papers, of course:

July 26 1897 Dot launched

Imagine the scene: with one month to go, her owner, barrister William H. Langley, was doubtless doing what every owner would be doing right before a beloved boat is about to launch – frantically buying everything needed to outfit his little yacht. How do we know this? Because Langley saved every receipt for every single purchase he made for Dorothy, perhaps knowing his boat was something special. (Or maybe because he had O.C.D.)

Example of a receipt Langley

June 25 1897 Violas placingAs meticulous Langley was in preparing his boat for the water, he was still obsessed with sailing, and was racing his first yacht, Viola. Viola wasn’t fast enough for Langley though – he wanted a winning yacht. So he bought a design from Linton Hope, himself a successful Olympic yachtsman and the owner of the Thames Yacht Company in England. Langley intended to name his next racing yacht “Viola II”, but when he acquired the plans from Hope, they were named “Dorothy”, so he stuck with that.

Evidently, she was fast. The stories of her successful races and regattas up and down the Northwest coast, I’ll save for another post. Below is a picture from Dorothy‘s 100th birthday celebration, in 1997.

Dorothy birthday cake 100th

And now, the hard news…

You may remember that our last post over a year ago lamented the tragic situation of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. News broke in the community that the government had condemned the historic building that the Museum had occupied for 49 years, and they were forced to find a new home. The hope was that they could get a lease for the CPR Steamship Terminal building, unoccupied and in a central, waterfront location, but it was not to be.

(A full backgrounder of the MMBC tenancy timeline is here for anyone interested in the history: http://mmbc.bc.ca/flymetothemoon/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/MMBC-Tenancy-Time-Line-and-Backgrounder-FINAL.pdf)

Packing up, moving everything into storage, and archiving the four floors of displays was painful. The staff was whittled down to three, then two, plus volunteers. Locations had to be secured for the large artefacts, of which there were many, including two entire boats, the Tilikum and Trekka. Over 40,000 items had to be cleaned, examined, meticulously catalogued, wrapped and packed away. The task was enormous, but the staff and volunteers heroically went at it for 6 months straight. I’ll just share some photos of the time, which say more than I can put into words:

It was devastating for many of the countless volunteers, maritime experts and lovers of historical research to see practically all of the collections packed up and stored away. The unknown loomed: where would they be housed? How could they organize and store such a huge collection? Would anything be available to the public again? Was maritime history doomed to be relegated to a back alley storefront, a shelf in a library?

And now, the happy news:

Thankfully, the history of an entire province’s coastline is bigger than any single location, and, true to form, maritime history seems to have survived. Incredible as it seems, the forced move seems to have breathed new life into the organization, which had long struggled with the aging building and other issues.

A new board, staff, website and vision have been birthed from the ashes, and in May 2016, they opened the doors to the Society’s modest location in Nootka Court, with a selection of the collection’s very best on display, featuring an interactive journey into the Franklin Discovery, the Captains Cook and Vancouver Journals, as well as many original works by marine artist John Horton featuring the “HMS Discovery”. Check out their featured exhibits here: http://mmbc.bc.ca/exhibits/featured-exhibits-2 We salute you in your new start!

Also, because of the move, we finally found Dorothy‘s suit of sails! They were made in the 80s by Fogh sails, commissioned by her owner at the time, Angus Matthews. Here’s Tony Grove hanging on tight to the valuable find:IMG_2136_2

Onward ho!

MMBC & Dorothy‘s Future

Dorothy‘s fate has always been tied to the people who care for her. She has survived longer than any other yacht in Canadian history because she was loved, appreciated and restored again and again.

And now it appears that those at the Museum who have so enthusiastically revived the institution itself are embracing the chance to influence Dorothy‘s future as well. Tony Grove (who is charged with Dorothy‘s restoration for the MMBC) and I have been talking with new leaders and shapers at the MMBC, and we are extremely heartened by their avid interest and desire to make this little yacht’s story central to the province’s maritime future.

There will huge news forthcoming as talks deepen and as we prepare for Dorothy’s 120th anniversary next year! Look for another significant update in one month’s time.

There is so much to look forward to, and we thank you for joining us on this exciting journey.

All the best, now get out there and get sailing! Tobi & Tony

MMBC squeezed out of Bastion Square historic building- must leave before Sept 30

Two weeks ago, the provincial government shut down negotiations between the B.C. Maritime Museum (the custodian of the Dorothy) and other parties to secure a new space for the Museum, leaving the venerable institution essentially homeless as of Sept 30th this year. The news release from the government is terse and only hints at the larger story: 

“Nine months of negotiation between Shared Services BC and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) to secure a lease for the Maritime Museum of BC in Victoria’s old steamship terminal are at an impasse. As a result, Shared Services BC has informed both the museum and the GVHA today that it is not able to provide any ongoing financial support or fund capital improvements at the steamship terminal. The ministry has also asked the museum to vacate 28 Bastion Square by Sept. 30, 2015, to avoid risk to staff and to assess the state of the building, which is in disrepair.” Read the full release here.

Today, the Museum trustees are calling the B.C. government’s bluff. They say that when the City of Victoria signed over the historic Bastion Square location to house the MMBC in 1977, “That agreement came with ‘the obligation to house the museum in perpetuity — either in the courthouse or another mutually agreeable location,’ trustees said in a statement. The agreement was signed by then Victoria mayor Mike Young and provincial secretary Grace McCarthy, according to stories published in the Victoria Daily Times. – See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/b-c-should-honour-1977-maritime-museum-promise-trustees-1.1973910#sthash.PyproUEp.dpuf

Museum trustees will hold a news conference at some point today, “to lay out why they say the province has an obligation to find a mutually agreeable home for the museum as well as maintain 28 Bastion Square in public hands.”

Courtesy of MMBC.CA

The end of more than nine months of negotiations “essentially scuppers all of our additional fundraising efforts based around obtaining a successful long-term lease,” said museum board chairman Clay Evans.

Last year, the B.C. Maritime Museum – the custodian and owner of the Dorothy – was asked by its landlord (the provincial government) to leave its home on Bastion Square, a beautiful heritage building that had served since 1889 as Victoria’s first permanent courthouse, with its famous birdcage elevator, installed in 1899, still the oldest working lift of its kind in North America. The government claimed it was unsafe for the public and would be too costly to repair to make it earthquake-safe, but some suspect the forced move also had something to do with freeing up the space for higher-paying commercial tenants. Others, like Victoria Councillor Pam Madoff, say that moving the MMBC out of the historic building endangers the future of the building itself, since any business would have to go through costly renovations and a rezoning process:

Madoff said her biggest concern is the fate of the old building, which is owned by the provincial government. So far, a provincial official has said only that the building requires significant upgrades and a business case will have to be developed for any new use. – See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/maritime-museum-s-move-leaves-hole-in-bastion-square-1.1432273#sthash.wuuybMsX.dpuf

The Museum board had, in the process of negotiations, been led to believe that the government would be working with them to secure a new waterfront space. After shutting their doors to the public (and losing much-needed revenue) over the last 9 months, they worked in good faith to come to terms with the provincial government, Harbour authority and Shared Services to be able to move into a new space in the old CP Railway terminal, which would have been a perfect fit for a maritime institution: close to a tourist terminus, and including waterfront access, a very important consideration for our Dorothy. Here’s what plans for the new space looked like:

Part of CPR terminal concept rendering (Merrick Architecture/ Project Belleville). Courtesy of CBC-Radio On the Island

But, instead of investment and support, what they got was delays and dodging. Finally, after negotiations “reached an impasse” in bureaucrat-speak, we heard that the province had no such intentions of support or investment. Hear the response from the province’s minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services CBC On the island interview with Amrick Virk. The government claims it was simply asking too much to supply the $1 million to refurbish the new space.

Evans said the move, in the timeframe the government has determined, is impossible given the size of the collection. “It’s actually British Columbia’s collection, and the Society looks after it for the public.”

Museum consultant Tim Willis spoke out very strongly about the loss of a visible, high-profile location for B.C.’s Maritime Museum, saying that cities all over the world are doing the opposite of B.C.: investing in maritime museums, because they tell “a crucial part of our story, and they’re wonderful economic generators as well.” Willis says he is angered at the position the Museum has been placed in, and is very worried about the larger implications for Victoria and the province if it loses this space. Hear the full interview: https://soundcloud.com/cbcvictoria/museum-consultant-tim-willis-on-the-bc-maritime-museum

Like Willis, this is more than a passing concern for me. The provincial government’s failure to support a viable, prominent location for the more than 10,000 artifacts of maritime heritage on this coast makes me very angry. At present, the massive collection is being catalogued and moved for storage in another government-owned archival facility. (Note the use of the word “storage”, not “display”.) This move means more than the loss of a public storefront for visitors. It also means wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars because dismantling this museum and rehousing it in a much smaller facility is akin to taking apart a boat or a complicated engine: it takes no time to take apart, but about 1,000 times longer to put it back together again.

Also, there is the loss of community and shared knowledge: without a common location that gathers together the archival materials, research libraries, physical artifacts AND a display place for visitors to come learn about our history, you risk losing the dozens of volunteers who currently come to contribute their shared knowledge that makes up a rich body of cultural understanding. Without a place to come to, to research, to cross-link stories and artifacts, you will lose not only the past, but the present remembered collection, as well.

And third, we are losing focus and vision as a province. If the MMBC is forced to come up with its own funds to get a small storefront space, with the majority of its collection “out of sight, out of mind”, what does that say about the priorities of this province? Does B.C. even recognize that we are a maritime province, built by boats and waterways, and that this maritime heritage is a valuable economic and cultural resource that should be invested in, rather than hidden away?

Personally, I’m appalled at how this entire process has devolved. I’m even more discouraged than ever at our government’s lack of foresight, vision, and its misguided priorities. And professionally, as a documentary filmmaker, I’m going to keep a close eye on whether this government will continue to shutter our province’s maritime and cultural assets, rather than promoting them to the world, and what that means for the future of our Dorothy.