Tag Archives: historical boat

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

 

Replacing the first of Dorothy’s floors

From outside Dorothy

Dorothy has been patiently waiting for attention in Tony Grove’s magical woodshop for some time. At last, other work being cleared away, the boatbuilder could begin on her stem/keel and floors, cutting away the 117 year old wood and fastenings, and measuring new timbers and frames.

Filming this process was a bit difficult – or I’m frankly out of practice – because Tony works super fast (even with me slowing him down!) He moves from bow to bandsaw to sander to steambox to clamp station and back again while I’m still setting up my shot! Wonderfully challenging. So if you wonder why there’s a series of similar looking shots from the bow, it’s because I finally found a perch where he would keep coming back and I could observe him without getting in the way.

Dorothy's floor timbers from above

View from small hatch of the stem with keel bolt taken out. Her garboards were actually removed back in October 2012, a process we filmed on our first shoot for “Between Wood and Water”.

Here’s a series of images that hopefully will give you the “1000 words” behind the story. If anyone has any technical questions, Tony will do his best to answer, but as he’s still in the middle of researching, some answers will take a bit longer to get to. But please do write and comment! This is a great time to ask questions because it will inform us a bit on what you want to see in the documentary…

Total shock at how little is holding Dorothy together

Tony expresses his shock at how little is holding Dorothy together….. OK, not really. He was mostly trying to scare me, saying the bow would crack under my weight as he took out these frames! Yikes!

Tobi shooting from the bow

There is barely room for two of us in that bow – Dorothy is very narrow up forward, and this wide-angle lens makes her look beamier than her actual 10 feet.

 

Removing old epoxy from mast step

Tony has just ripped off the mast step, which was covered in epoxy, which made it suspect, but it was actually ok. At least it’s clean now.

Now we can see how the floor timbers fit together

Now we can see how the floor timbers fit together

This old bolt just popped out (which is not supposed to happen). Tony thinks it’s galvanized steel and is original to the boat. It’s been eaten away pretty badly as you can tell, it should be about twice as long.

This old bolt came off super easy, in fact the head broke off. Tony thinks it's a mixture of iron and galvenized steel and is original to the boat.

This is where the bolt was…

Unscrewing keel bolt

This bronze keel bolt is actually in pretty good shape, still has thread but the wood timber its supposed to be holding in place is completely gone.

This was the wood around the keel bolt, now obviously broken down due to electrochemical decay. Here with the new oak timber that will replace it.

This was the wood around the keel bolt, now obviously broken down due to electrochemical decay. Here with the new oak timber that will replace it.

So this is where it’s complicated – or can be. Building new frames and floors for Dorothy requires taking so many angles into consideration, Tony was scribing, measuring, considering, sawing, sanding for a good half hour for each. It was fascinating to watch/film, because he would spend all this time simply looking, analyzing, running the shape through his artistic/boatbuilder brain, and then fly into action and 20 minutes later… the pieces popped into place like they grew there – the first time! Amazing to watch him in action.

The old rotten frame coming out. There was almost nothing holding them to the stem/keel.

The old rotten frame coming out. There was almost nothing holding them to the stem/keel.

Here’s a measuring-to-bandsaw series:

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And then it’s necessary to keep testing them in place. This back and forth could take all day, but was relatively short this time around. Thankfully for the filmmaker and hungry boatbuilder!

Fitting in new floors

The piece on the right (port) will sister the frame going across the floor, which was steamed and bent yesterday.

The piece on the right (port) will sister the frame going across the floor, which was steamed and bent yesterday. These two sister/side pieces popped in for an exact fit – nice when that happens!

And then who doesn’t know how clamps work? Not much to say except they are pretty essential to any boatshop, as I’m learning. As I posted yesterday, Tony has about 50 in his shop, but could always use more. And someone on Facebook responded by saying “there are never enough clamps”. I guess it’s a universal thing…

Clamping new oak for Dorothy's floor

That about wraps our little inside look at the floor timber/frame restoration process. Lots still to come. Tony will be working on Dorothy throughout the summer, aiming to get her back in Victoria for re-rigging by Fall. So there will be frequent updates here, watch this space!

On the weekend I will post more about the Tony Grove special… a steambox that is portable and won’t break your bank!

Cheers, happy sailing (and restoring and refinishing and varnishing and polishing… )

Tobi and Tony and Dorothy

David and Su: Dorothy owners 1984-1991

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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