Tag Archives: Dorothy sailboat

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

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!!

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