Category Archives: Wooden Boats

Hello Spring!

20140409-203418.jpgIf 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!

20140409-210624.jpgSo, 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.

Photo by Tony Grove

Photo by Tony Grove

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

Heritage Afloat – a week celebrating BC’s maritime heritage

HBC Newsletter header Feb 2014

February 17-23 is Heritage Week in British Columbia, and this year’s theme is wonderfully titled “Heritage Afloat”.

A not-for-profit, charitable organization supporting heritage conservation across British Columbia, Heritage BC writes this about choosing the theme for 2014: it “recognizes how our lakes, rivers and ocean coastline created a complete transportation network for a resource economy. From First Nations settlement and culture, to the first European exploration, to historic shipwrecks and lighthouses, to fish canneries and floating logging camps, water is an important key to our history.”

I love how everything in BC comes back to water – indeed Dorothy could not have survived so long without it! You can download BC Heritage’s Winter Quarterly newsletter here, which includes our story, DOROTHY: A living legend sets sail again.

I wrote the article’s intro almost absently, thinking of how many wooden boats must have perished, and how miraculous it is that Dorothy, of thousands of boats on this coast, would have survived. I would love to know your thoughts on this:

“The care of a classic wooden boat can be a delicate, uncertain thing. The fact that Dorothy has survived not only intact, but as a fast and sea-kindly little yacht for more than a century is owed in equal parts to her luck, her beauty and her solid Pacific northwest timbers.”

Happily going along with the theme that fits their mandate so well, the BC Maritime Museum asked Tony Grove, the shipwright currently working on Dorothy for her return to the water this fall, and I to give a talk at the Museum this week about Dorothy‘s restoration and some of the intriguing facts we’ve turned up in the course of researching her life. All are invited to come!

1 p.m. Wednesday Feb 19
28 Bastion Square, Victoria, BC

And… If you happen to tune in to CBC’s morning radio show On the Island with Gregor Craigie on a regular basis, you may drop in on a delightful conversation about our own lovely Dorothy tomorrow morning. Gregor recently spoke with Tony Grove and Angus Matthews, one of Dorothy‘s previous owners still very much involved in her life, to get the latest on the vessel’s restoration drama. The segment will air either Tuesday or Wednesday, and we wanted to give you the heads up so you can listen in. If you’re not on the island, you may be able to catch the live stream online here.

Remember: All manner of wonderful things float on water… but loveliest of all is the wooden boat.

Hope to see you Wednesday!

– te

Dorothy presentation Jan 30 at the Haven

Just a reminder, we’re doing a presentation on Dorothy – her restoration and the documentary – tomorrow night (Thursday, Jan 30) at The Haven on Gabriola. The event is put together by the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society and they’ve done a fantastic job of promoting this local project. 

The talk will be about an hour, with time for a Q & A after. Expect lots of visuals – stills and short video excerpts from what’s been filmed so far for the documentary. Shipwright Tony Grove will update us on the restoration process and what he’s discovered this winter since sanding Dorothy down to her planks. While there will be some technical talk about planks, fastenings and construction methods of the era, Tony is a great teacher and will unveil some surprising facts that even non-boaty people will find intriguing.

I (Producer Tobi Elliott) will cover some of Dorothy‘s history and also reveal tidbits of the new information that we’ve gleaned from the most recent interviewees. I just came back from a few days on the mainland where I got to meet up with Bridget Brand, one of W.H. Langley’s granddaughters, and was privileged to hear her tell some amazing stories of her times aboard the Dorothy. She is the only surviving member of the Langley clan on this continent (her sister lives in France) who sailed on Dorothy, and it was so neat to hear her talk about her Grandfather’s love for his boat.

Bridget also loaned me her grandmother’s daily diaries – what a treasure! Every day for decades, she wrote something – usually very dry and short, and containing some variation of “Lovely day. Billy spent part of day working on Dorothy. I worked in garden.” Very Victorian. I’m still looking for the entry where she writes about seeing the famous “Cadborosaurus” from Dorothy‘s decks in 1933.

I’ll bring the diaries tomorrow and you can see for yourself…

Hope to see you there! Happy sailing, Tobi

 

New season, new start, new shoot!

Tony Grove sanding Dorothy with Festool RO 125sander

Welcome back, Dorothy fans!

We are long overdue for an update and I do apologize for having left you so long. I hope your holidays were merry, restful and gave you time to set your sights on the exciting times coming ahead.

There was actually a lot of downtime here at Dorothy HQ over the holidays. Some was planned, some was not…

The unplanned downtime was due to Tony Grove (our amazing shipwright), getting in a rather nasty car accident just before Christmas on Gabriola’s SINGLE night of snow – as vintage ’65 Dodge vans apparently aren’t known for skilled snow negotiation– resulting in 1 broken van, 1 broken shoulder and 7 broken ribs. Ouch!

Poor Tony! But fear not, he’s come through amazingly, and with no apparent lasting damage. Apart from lots of pain in the first few weeks (anyone who made him laugh was promptly banned from the house!) and having to spend far more hours propped up on the couch than he was used to, he’s weathered it just fine. I’m happy to report that Tony is back on his feet and able to do more each day. It might be a few weeks yet until work can begin again on Dorothy, but he’s managed to stay busy in the meantime.

And there’s lots in the pipeline for the coming few weeks, so we are actually glad for a nice rest. Here’s a look at what’s coming:

– Tony finished his painting of Dorothy (yay!) just before his accident, and he’s very happy with the results. I must say her fantail has never been so beautifully highlighted! He’s framing it today for shipping soon. It was a commission for the Vancouver Law Society. We shot still frames as the painting developed, which have turned out GREAT and will an amazing tool for the documentary. [Photo to come – just have to wait til the client sees it first]

– AND we look forward to making a canvas reproduction of the Dorothy painting to give away to the biggest donor in our fall Indiegogo fundraiser. So nice to give gifts! That’s been one of my favourite parts of fundraising.

the German yacht magazine, YACHT, is sending a team to photograph and write a feature on Dorothy‘s restoration in mid-February

Tony Grove sanding Dorothy with Festool sander

Festool (a German manufacturer of premium equipment) has asked Tony to participate in their “Sand, Finish, Pass” promotion, in which they give out a Rotex RO 125 Multi-Mode Sander to woodworking specialists around the continent to test in the unique conditions of their own workplace. Tony is the only boatbuilder participating in the promotion, and we think they’re pretty lucky to get their sander tested on our precious Dorothy! Check out their Facebook page for some recent photos (actually screengrabs from the video Tobi is shooting for the contest)

– Tony and I (Tobi) will be speaking about Dorothy‘s restoration on Gabriola, in an event put together by the Gabriola Historical and Museum SocietyThursday, January 30 | Phoenix Auditorium at The Haven Doors open at 6:30, presentation at 7:00 | Admission by donation.

– Tony Grove will be speaking again in Victoria at the Maritime Museum of B.C. during Maritime Heritage week, Feb 17-23. Check out the MMBC’s snazzy new website in the meantime for details.

– this month, Heritage BC is featuring an article on Dorothy in their quarterly magazine to celebrate their theme “Heritage Afloat”

– we are looking forward to an interview with Sheryl MacKay of CBC’s NXNW morning show, probably at the end of this month. We’ll post details on when it goes to air.

and… finally… some real work. Tobi gets to pick up the camera again tomorrow to meet a very special person in Dorothy‘s life. This amazing person learned to sail on Dorothy, as the lovely boat belonged to their family about 5 decades ago. We are very much looking forward to this and have waited a loonnng time for this piece of the Dorothy history to fall into place. More on that this weekend, with some photos for sure.

Dorothy under garboards- seams reefed-T.Elliott

Dorothy is still patiently waiting for visitors to come see her in this incredibly beautiful state: wood sanded down to the grain, planks exposed, her “stuffing” taken out. So if you have a hankering to see this beautiful little ship, send Tony or I a note and arrange a visit. Once Tony gets back to work she won’t be like this for long! This shipwright moves fast, so get here while you can!

And finally, I believe I have sent out most, if not all, the gifts and thank yous for the donations that came in. IF you’re missing yours and I overlooked you somehow, please PLEASE send an email to tobi [at] tobielliott [dot] com and gently remind me! It wasn’t on purpose. There’s just a lot of things to keep tabs on. Doin’ my best…

Thanks for all your support. Keep sharing your stories and telling us what you are up to!

Tobi & Tony

Reefing Images Part 2

Happy Friday everyone!

For the boat-geeks and Dorothy lovers out there, some images from last week’s reefing session. Thanks to Liz Salls for her meticulous help reefing the delicate seams, and David Baker, who developed a new method of cutting out the old material so the soft cedar plank edges wouldn’t be damaged.

And of course, always big thanks to Tony Grove, boat restoration expert, who carefully explains all he’s doing for the camera even as he’s guiding Dorothy’s care every step of the way. More news coming soon. And possibly a video.

If you ask nicely…

Have a great weekend, Tobi

 

IMG_8616  IMG_8590     Stern hard to get at-T.Grove Tony reefing seams1-Nov 2013-TElliottTobi Elliott filming as Liz Salls reefs seams-Tony GrovePort side finishing up Dorothy seams-T.Grove

More gold!

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For those of you not on Facebook – and I know there are more than a few – I’m adding some of the images I took recently from my time at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. I was so delighted to discover that one of the club’s archivists had carefully searched every reference to “yachting” in the Victoria Times Colonist, and printed them out from microfiche records… Right back to the inception of the club in the 1890s! So it wasn’t too difficult to read through the 1896-1900 years and find references to WH Langley, Dorothy’s first owner, and his dealings with the Club. He was Club Commodore in 1904-06. He also served as the lawyer for the plaintiff when the Club sued the builder of its first clubhouse after it sank! And I got to read of the tragedy that befell the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in Victoria when a train carrying merrymakers to the waterfront so they could watch the yacht races and mock battles, crashed into the water, killing some 50 souls. The news accounts are so compelling I must admit I got sidetracked a bit from my Dorothy research.

Fascinating stuff. But what’s more, there was a whole binder full of Dorothy material that I hadn’t seen before: letters from Langley to Linton Hope in England, Dorothy’s designer, lists of Langley’s expenditures on his new boat, bills of sale on everything from the anchor to ropes and lead for her keel! This man was meticulous, and somehow these precious records have been preserved for over a century. The copies I saw were photocopies to be true, but it must mean that the originals aren’t far.

Thank you to Ken Reksten and Gord Nickells for letting me in and giving me so much time with these precious documents. More gold!

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Keep in mind the campaign to support the documentary about Dorothy’s life “Between Wood and Water” is online for only one more week! Donate now and get a choice of some amazing perks and gifts (in time for Christmas!) Share with your friends and family and be part of making this doc an important film in the canon of BC maritime history. Campaign ends Nov 15. Thank you!

Love, Tobi

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Digging down to gold

Date: 1910 "Dorothy wins international race." Courtesy MMBC archives

Date: 1910 “Dorothy wins international race.” Courtesy MMBC archives

When I first learned that Tony Grove would be restoring Dorothy for the Maritime Museum of B.C., my immediate thought was, “Someone must document this!” But when I actually visited the MMBC and scanned through the treasure chest of supporting material chronicling her life on this coast – the photos, the wealth of logbook entries and letters of correspondence between her first owner, W.H. Langley, and her designer, Linton Hope – I realized this story could be much more than a documentary about the restoration process, it could be a wonderfully rich and substantial love story about sailing on this coast. 

Now, to those of you who love watching how-to videos of wooden boat restorations, (forgive me if I’m wrong here) but if we only focused on the restoration drama that’s happening in Tony Grove’s shop, the rest of the world would quickly bored. There’s only so much sanding, scraping and plank replacing that one can watch! Although a “restoration documentary” would have its own narrative arc, we need to see why people are going to such lengths to save this boat. What is so compelling about Dorothy? Why has she survived this long? 

Truth is, a wooden boat doesn’t survive for over a century, with 80-90% of her original planking intact, by chance. She had to have had an extraordinary level of care throughout her life. Someone, at every point of her life, was either sailing her, saving her, restoring her or searching for a better steward for her care than they could presently give. That is what I love about the Dorothy story: the drama lies in those who sacrificed over the years to keep her alive and sailing. 

Even if you don’t have a sailboat, have never sailed, or don’t like boats or the water, you likely have something in your life that gives it added meaning and depth. Not only can we grow in character from learning attention and care, responsibility and stewardship from loving humans, but beautiful objects, too, can make us grow. We all need something to love.

And the more you care for your lovely thing, whether it be a home, a guitar, a bike, or a VW Doc Bus! as my friend Mandy Leith can attest to, the more you learn how to keep your lovely thing in the best possibly condition, and the more your heart expands.

By focussing on the romance and relationship between a beautiful, functional object (or being) that brings you joy, and you, as the human stewarding its care, I hope to make this story universally appealing.

Here are some photos I recently discovered on my recent “dig” through the Museum’s archives:

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Dorothy Archives

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Campaign is still on for another 11 days! http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dorothy-documentary/x/1371948

Don’t delay, if you have thought about contributing to the documentary but haven’t yet, we could use your help now! We are at $5,560 and need to raise $10,000 for vital shoots this summer and fall.

Please spread the word and help make this campaign a success. Thank you!

Love, Tobi

Dorothy loses her rubrail

Dorothy stern end no rubrail-Tony GroveLast week, shipwright Tony Grove began cutting off Dorothy‘s rubrail, which was rotting and posing a danger to the integrity of her hull. There’s a bit of a debate right now as to whether Dorothy was originally designed with a rubrail, but there’s no question that the rubrail she currently has (had) was put on fairly recently, in the last half of the century.

This rubrail had been made of red oak, which is a hardwood, but one that doesn’t hold up well in the marine environment. It was literally rotting away – deeply in some places – affecting the planks immediately beneath it. It’s fitted along Dorothy‘s sheerline, where the deck meets the hull. and sticks out about 1 inch to prevent the vessel from being damaged if something were to rub up against her hull. Rubrails can also be used to cover the overlap of the decking material.

Some argue Dorothy looks better – cleaner , more shapely – without it. What do you think?

Images below are pulled from footage shot October 2013, by Tobi Elliott © Arise Enterprises. (Some images will look a bit jagged because they are pulled off a preview version of the video footage. If you’re viewing this on in your email, the full gallery of images will appear much better on the original blog post at dorothysails.com)

The gallery below shows how Tony painstakingly cuts out around each fastening using a Fein reciprocating cutter, then chips away the wood to unscrew or, in some cases, unhappily snap the bad fastenings off that have rusted or rotten into the wood, which enables him to pry off the rubrail.

NOTE: We have extended our fundraiser for the documentary about Dorothy, which you can find here at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dorothy-documentary We have some amazing new “thank you gifts” available, among them jewellery pendants made from original copper fastenings removed from Dorothy, and turned into works of art by noted silversmith and jeweller Lindsay Stocking Godfrey, for $100. Check out the site, we are accepting donations for 2 more weeks!

Below: after taking off the rubrail, Tony uncovered this upper starboard side plank that appeared so rotten he just had to pry it off to see how extensively the rot had spread beneath. Thankfully once he got a look inside he could see the rot hadn’t spread far. All images © Arise Enterprises.

Removing rotten stern plank Ripping off rotten stern plank Looking into stern rotten plank hole

The campaign of a lifetime

I just looked at the stats for our Indiegogo campaign fundraiser for the Dorothy documentary. In 25 days, since Sept 13, there have been 36 separate contributions, for a total of $2,785 – and… this is the best part… ONLY 5 days when NO ONE donated.

Isn’t that incredible?! Each of the 20 days, someone out there sat down and thought, “I want to support this project and help get this film made,” and then picked a perk and gave out of their hard-earned money.

Campaign update week 4

To me, that’s a miracle. Maybe from where you’re sitting, you look at this campaign and think, “They are so far from their goal! What are they thinking? Almost $7,000 to go and only 3 weeks left? What can she be happy about?”

But let me tell you, from where I sit, this is an amazing thing that’s happening, and I am deeply thankful for each and every person who has stepped forward to give.

Because it’s not about how much is raised. Really.

Truly.

Although my credit card company will tell you differently – that it’s very MUCH about how much we raise – I can’t this of this project in terms of dollar amounts.

I think of it in terms of how many people have been moved by Dorothy‘s story. Because that’s why I got on board. Not because this was going to be a great commercial enterprise. Not because I wanted to make a film that would bring in tons of money (otherwise I would have made it a reality series, with Tony Grove throwing mallets around the shop or something, and not an actual, quality documentary, which promises to make no money whatsoever.) Not because I knew a lot about boats or I was a die-hard sailor or I just love sawdust or boat shops or whatever.

Nope. I did it simply because Dorothy captured my heart, with her quiet elegance, her sublime design, and her pedigreed planks. She is simply beautiful, she is a living piece of history and she deserves centre stage. 

So for me, success would be that more and more people get interested and invested in this story every day, and want to see this film made. Raising funds is elementary. Raising community is much more exciting.

We will get there, no question.

Will you be aboard with us?

In faith and lots of gratitude, this (Canadian) Thanksgiving, Tobi

PS. I just found out via Facebook that an update on Dorothy‘s restoration is going to be featured in the “Currents” Section of Wooden Boat Magazine’s upcoming Nov/Dec Issue. Now, talk about exciting community!