Category Archives: Sailing

David and Su: Dorothy owners 1984-1991

Baker-Russel shoot1-T.Grove

Setting up to interview Su Russell and David Baker on the edge of Pilot Bay, Gabriola Island, with DOP Kate Bradford and Producer Tobi Elliott. (photo by Tony Grove)

You couldn’t have asked for a better interview setting, or a better interview. After a full day of filming two of our main characters for the documentary ‘Between Wood and Water’, all the stars seemed to align to allow us to finish with an absolutely lovely interview – both in the dialogue captured and the setting’s serene aesthetics that matched our subject’s mood and conversation. It was a 1-2 combo of the rare variety that makes a filmmaker’s heart sing!

Tobi & Kate shooting June 21-13-T.GroveThe day of our shoot dawned with a promising overcast sky (harsh sunlight being unkind to our subjects) and Kate Bradford and I got over to Tony Grove’s shop to set up before David Baker and Su Russell arrived. As soon as they pulled up, it was all I could do to stop Tony and David diving immediately into earnest discussion. By now, Tony knows the shooting routine well enough to divert the conversation before he hears my anguished cry, “Wait, wait! you can’t talk about anything IMPORTANT until we’re rolling!” so he and David strove mightily to talk about anything but what concerned them both the most: Dorothy‘s condition. (I think they hosted the inaugural meeting of the Dodge Van Fan Society – each possessing one of those illustrious vehicles.)

Although we had decided to get to know one another a bit before turning on the cameras, it was obvious the couple couldn’t wait to see their beloved sloop, so we plunged straight into it and attempted to capture what this vessel had meant – and still meant – to them.

In the cabin-David-Su-TonyDuring the morning-long shoot, we followed David and Su as they sat in the cockpit and then the cabin, mulling over memories and comparing notes on changes in their beloved Dorothy. They both seemed to be lost in time as they stroked the tiller and siderails, hands falling automatically into position, and stood comfortably in familiar places, reminiscing over how powerful body memory can be.

Dorothy had been part of their lives from 1984-1991. As a young, blended family growing up in Victoria, B.C. with the aim of family adventure on the water, the Baker-Russells piled into their shapely vessel nearly every weekend (up to 6 bodies!) and explored the Gulf islands of coastal B.C. Like her original owner, W.H. Langley, David and Su took full advantage of Dorothy‘s incredible sailing and cruising abilities– in part because she was in peak condition by the time they owned her, and in part because the Baker-Russells simply love to be on the water. They didn’t miss an opportunity to sail this historic boat.

Baker-Russell shooting on Dot-T.Grove

Looking at photos-David-Su-TonyFollowing lunch (and lunch at Tony’s is not something to be missed!) we had a more leisurely shoot over some photos and personal memories. Then came an opportunity to indulge Tony and David at last in a true “man-chat” and dive into the particulars of her restoration. David and Su were the 3rd set of owners to continue a legacy of careful restoration begun by Chuck Charlesworth in the 1950s, after Dorothy was essentially abandoned by a series of owners (post-Langley) who didn’t properly care for her. Under their watch, she was brought to pristine condition, and the list of modifications and rebuilds that David and Su undertook is staggering (those interested can read the complete list of modifications and upgrades at the end of this post).

David had essentially re-rerigged her, learning traditional steel wire splicing, parcelling and serving in order to get the standing rigging done authentically. They replaced all of the running rigging, re-built the mast and boom, had a new fore hatch built, added winches for safety and sailing efficiency, and had Bent Jesperson make a new rudder and tiller. As a physician and academic, David’s attention to detail ensured that everything that could have been done to maintain Dorothy was duly accomplished, and she shone as the “oldest classic boat” at Expo ’86. Tony suggested that if David, (and Angus Matthews and Chuck before him) hadn’t taken such diligent care of Dorothy, she wouldn’t be around today. Wooden boats, as you no doubt know by now, need a lot of care and attention.

Trio looking at Dot-from above

As we surveyed the vessel that was once his pride and joy from keelbolt to tiller, David spoke movingly about how much he had enjoyed working on this boat of incomparable pedigree and such beautiful lines. Out of everything David said had to say about Dorothy, what impressed me most is that he really understands the purpose of sailboat design, and where boats can fall down on their merits. During our interview, I learned that a sailboat can be built to race well, or to cruise well, or to look pretty, but rarely do they combine form and function and do all those things well. And Dorothy, needless to say, does.

David and Su are a very special couple who still love the water. It’s obvious that Dorothy as a wooden boat has left an indelible impression on them, because their next boat was the gorgeous 40-foot Rhodes 27 sloop, Varya, built in 1940 and extensively rebuilt and upgraded by David. (See images on their website here)

David & Su interview2

And then, the icing on the cake at then end of a successful day: as the sun’s shadows stretched and stretched across the lovely, quiet bay on Gabriola island on Solstice eve, the water lapped quietly at our feet as Su and David  spoke movingly about how much Dorothy had meant to them. The setting was so magical and their words so perfectly evoked the emotions of what Dorothy meant to them, and should represent, as a historical living vessel, to the rest of B.C. – and indeed all of Canada – that I will save what was said during that special interview for the film. I’m sure much of that interview will make the final cut.

On a personal note: aside from the moment I first discovered Dorothy behind Tony Grove’s shop on Gabriola island back in October 2012, and got that shiver of excitement that means you’ve found a really great story, this day has been my personal favourite in the story so far. It confirms my belief that Dorothy is indeed a special, lucky little sailboat who has an amazing ability to draw the most wonderful people to her.

And perhaps it’s the other way around, too. Maybe those who connect with Dorothy are bettered by their love of her, and left changed and somehow beautified as a result. In any case, everyone that I’ve met who has had anything to do with that lovely boat has been instantly a heart-connection. I’m left very thankful that we have the opportunity to tell this story, and as the details line up and the stars shine down on us, it confirms to me that this is indeed a story for our time.

Su Russell profile interview-June 21

David Baker profile-interview June 21

May all kinds of Dorothy-inspired adventures continue…

Tobi Elliott, Producer

List of Improvements and Rebuilds for Dorothy under David and Su

  • steel wire splicing parcelling and serving to get the standing rigging done authentically;  replaced all of the running rigging
  • rebuilt the mast and the  boom, along with new leather for the  gaff jaws and parrel beads so that the gaff went up more smoothly without damaging the finish on the mast
  • had a new Yankee cut to be fitted on a new bronze roller furling gear (believe it or not these were available in the early days of the 20th century  and Langley had ordered one from a chandlery in England but it never arrived)
  • had a new 150% staysail cut to overlap the main for better draft and to improve Dorothy’s sailing characteristics
  • hauled 3 keel bolts and replaced one of them
  • had a new forehatch built, added a second bow roller and had two mushroom vents added in the stern to aid in air circulation.
  • stripped the paint from the hull, sanded and repaired all obvious problems, replaced 3 planks in the hull; put 8 coats of paint back on
  • bought a new lighter-weight but stronger anchor, and set up proper ground tackle so she could be anchored with more security; we kept the old anchor so that we could anchor with two if needed
  • had the diesel engine rebuilt and added a properly feeding fuel tank
  • replaced the old 3-bladed prop with a two blade-er so that the blades could be hidden behind the deadwood to improve sailing characteristics
  • bought kerosene cabin lights, running lights as well as an anchor light
  • built a proper Fife rail so that the lines could be properly belayed at the mast after the gaff sail had been raised
  • had Bent Jesperson design and built a new rudder and tiller

– David Baker

Engaging the power of community

Dorothy on water-sepia

So I told you last week I would reveal the “plan” I have up my sleeve for getting this doc produced. Well, ideally I would still love a broadcast partner to come on board. That’s the best case scenario because then we have a place to show the film once finished, and we could produce it under a more realistic budget. As I go to the Banff Media Festival next month, the Dorothy film will be one of the projects I bring to pitch, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

But my other plan – because dang it! we’re going to make a film about Dorothy, aren’t we??!! – involves partnering directly to our audience to make the film. In this day and age of indie filmmaking, the practice of crowdfunding through sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter has become immensely popular. Instead of relying on one or two big funders, we have potentially 1,000s of “little” funders who can contribute whatever they feel able towards the film. It all depends on outreach and building community, but thankfully that has become easier with the advent of social media.

PerksSome call this age the democratization of media because as slots for independent films on television become fewer, the cost of actually making films also continues to decrease. In some ways, filmmaking is actually getting a lot simpler: instead of going through 3rd party channels like expensive studios and distributors, we can partner directly with the people who want to see the film made. Producers are beginning to turn more and more to regular people to fund production in exchange for “perks” – everything from a merchandise and film-related swag, to an executive producer credit in the film.

Some big studios are even catching on to this. You might have heard in the news lately about the producers of The Veronica Mars movie, who aimed to raise $2 million and instead pulled in $5.7 million. The highest proportion of backers (23,227 people) put in just $50 to get a host of swag, including a DVD of the movie with a behind-the-scenes documentary and special bonus features. Another example: Zach Braff’s recent campaign for his indie feature “Wish I was Here” garnered $2.5 million with 36,000 backers. Now, these projects both have high profile actors and a cult following, so it’s easy to see how they could be successful.

But I would argue that Dorothy has an equally strong following – albeit local, and a relatively niche group – of passionate watercraft lovers who want to see her restored and celebrated as she should be. And it just takes a few of us – a few dedicated “super fans” who are willing to spread the word – to pull in a wider community of people. And before you know it, we have a collective force that can do a lot more together than a few of us can accomplish alone.

My approach to filmmaking is that I don’t have all the answers, and I like to work with a community to source out the answers I don’t have. I also have only limited resources. I work hard to do a good job telling the stories that come my way and honour them with my talents and a lot of energy. But if we go the unconventional indie route, we need more than just “Tobi and Kate”. We need a whole community to make this happen.

Our immediate need is to cover 3 essential shoots this summer and fall – one of which is coming up very soon in June when two of Dorothy’s previous owners (David Baker and Angus Matthews) visit her and go over her history with Tony. Another shoot will take place in Victoria as we catalogue the archives and conduct interviews with the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, as well as some interviews at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where she was berthed for so long. And a 3rd this fall at the Victoria Classic Boat festival where we hope to capture the vibe of the classic boat community.

To cover these, I plan to launch a small fundraising campaign at the Ladysmith Maritime Festival on June 8th, to run through the summer and culminate with the Victoria Classic Boat festival Aug 30/31-Sept 1. We have a few ideas up our sleeves (silkscreened “I Love the Dorothy” T-shirts, anyone?) of merch to sell as fundraisers and gifts, and we welcome all suggestions. If you are associated with a company that produces something we’d be able to resell, please get in touch.

That’s all for now! Hope you’re all enjoying the beautiful west coast weather and getting out on the water as much as possible.

Happy Sailing!

Tobi Elliott, Producer BETWEEN WOOD AND WATER

classic boat fest race2011

Picking up the story thread

Poster for Classic Boat Festival 2007 featuring Dorothy under sail.

Poster for Classic Boat Festival 2007 featuring Dorothy under sail.

It’s been exactly four months to the day since we spent a beautiful January morning filming John West and Eric Waal – trustees for the B.C. Maritime Museum – as they visited Dorothy on Gabriola Island where she resides in queenly estate at Tony Grove’s shop. Four months! How the heck did that happen –??

But in all fairness, we’ve been busy in the meantime: Tony had a few other jobs to do, including completing a beautiful door and set of curved outdoor benches for the new Gabriola Community Health Centre (some examples of Tony’s custom doors here) and Kate Bradford and I (Tobi Elliott) had other stories to chase in the grand adventure known as documentary filmmaking. (Forgive the cross-promotion here: I’m producing another film based in B.C.’s northeast called The Trapper of Peace River about the conflict over the rich natural resources of the Peace region, and developing a few TV series ideas. I’ll be going to Banff Media Festival in June to pitch some of them, one of which is a history series I’m calling Waterway Queens – inspired by my research on Dorothy of course!)

But there is nothing so satisfying as a detour when you know you have a great story like Dorothy waiting for you when you get home! Dignified she stands, with her century-old wood and her elegant lines, patiently waiting for us mere humans on our hourly timeclock, knowing that as we scramble after other opportunities and chase our tails, she will inevitably draw us back. She is indeed a beloved boat, and I fear even my objective journalistic mind is falling romantically under her spell!

And so I find myself at this juncture pondering the way forward. We have been at a crossroads about this documentary for some time. Decisions need to be made – and soon, for Tony is about to pick up hammer and claw again to get down to business. For us as filmmakers, the decision is not whether to continue filming – the Dorothy story is a fantastic one and her restoration resonates on so many different levels that I feel we have a duty to tell it – but how to proceed in making the documentary without a broadcaster.

Last winter we had been in talks with network X – our favourite broadcaster and clearly the choice for us to work with – but we couldn’t come to terms. Suffice it to say the network would be more than happy to acquire a film about Dorothy once it is completed, but could not get behind it at this point for the much more expensive license fee. Which is discouraging, to be honest, because getting a license from a broadcaster is traditionally how you get films made in Canada.

Luckily, we have other options. The plan I’m forming will take independence, guts and no small amount of relish for risk, but I think it can be done. There is hope! I’ll cover this idea in a post next week, promise! I know I’ve been terrible about keeping up with Dorothy news but really, did you want me to clog up your inbox with non-news?

But in the meantime I have one small request: if you are reading this, can you send me a quick email at dorothysails@gmail.com , pretty please, with your postal code or your city of residence? 

When I set up the sign up feature on the Dorothy homepage, my overworked brain didn’t think of setting up a way of figuring out where you are all located! It’s helpful to know where our audience is for later down the line when we want to distribute the film, so we can set up screenings in your area and connect with your organizations.

And let me know a bit about yourself. Are you a boater, sailing enthusiast, armchair wooden boat fanatic, member of a yacht club or maritime organization or…? In short, who are you? 

I promise not to spam you or give away your email addresses – as a member of dozens of newsletters I know what it’s like to click delete 20 times until I get that one I’m genuinely interested in. I just want to know who is legitimately interested in the project or in receiving updates.

So hang tight, rest assured the producing wheels are clicking away in the background, and that Dorothy and her wonderful story of redemption and glory will get told somehow, some day!

Cheers for now and happy sailing to all! ~

Tobi, Kate and Tony

Tobi, Tony & Kate wrap first day shooting, Nov 2012- photo by Tony Grove.

Tobi, Tony & Kate wrap first day shooting, Nov 2012- photo by Tony Grove.

Kate Bradford in playhouse waiting for the shot.

Kate Bradford in playhouse waiting for the shot.

Tobi's excited for the first shoot day - way back in Oct 2012!

Tobi’s super excited for the first shoot day – way back in Nov 2012! Photo by Klint Burton

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 ….

News about Dorothy

This is where we’ll update you week by week with new photos and behind-the-scenes bits as Tony begins the exploratory process on Dorothy.

Stay tuned!