Tag Archives: maritime history

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

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.

What got her out of the shed and into the light: the story of two tenacious trustees

There is a story within Dorothy’s story that I’ve been waiting a very long time to tell, but you’re going to have to wait just a wee bit longer to get the whole shebang because… well, there’s a documentary in the works.

But I’ll give you a preview: it involves one of those critical points in Dorothy’s history – and there were many – when her future hung on the fine point of a balance that could have tipped either way.

At every juncture there was a person who had to decide either to continue investing in this boat, or to let the inevitable decline that was ever nipping at the heels of a wooden boat take over. We wouldn’t be having this conversation, and we probably wouldn’t even have any remnants of Dorothy today, if just one of those critical junctures had tipped with someone walking away from her. Dorothy would not exist today if it weren’t for the courageous men and women who stood between her and decay.

That’s what my documentary is about, after all. The men and women who stood between wood and water.

The most recent of those junctures happened in 2011. (And we’re at another juncture at this very moment, but I’ll get to that in the next edition.) And the particular heroes at this point of her story were John West and Eric Waal, who became trustees for the Maritime Museum of B.C. for the sole purpose of looking after Dorothy and the two other boats in their fleet, Trekka and Tilikum.

But as Kermit would say, it ain’t easy being green. And it’s even harder being a trustee for a very underfunded institution that was on the cusp of the fight for its life. However, as it always turns out in the story of Dorthy, luck was with her and it turned out that these two heroes had some things going for them.

Eric has the tenacity of a bulldog. And when he saw the Dorothy’s legacy fund being drained for storage and insurance fees instead of being put toward her repair, he wouldn’t let of the idea that the waste had to stop, and that Dorothy either had to be fixed and get back in the water, or be turned into a land-based display. His tenacity was the first domino that led to Dorothy being trucked to Tony Grove’s shop on Gabriola island.

Dorothy lucked out again when John came aboard, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of historical and classic boats, and copious amounts of charm and bonhomie. Beloved and well known in the boating community, John was one of the key founders of Victoria’s Classic Boat Festival, now entering its 40th year. Once he dug through the archives and logbooks and read the extensive documentation on Dorothy, he knew that this was a maritime treasure that had to be preserved for future generations.

And that’s why we’re having this discussion at all. When an elegant, beautiful example of turn-of-the-century craftsmanship was mouldering in a shed, these two men stuck their necks out and said that something had to be done. That she needed – no, deserved to be invested in, and they became her most recent champions and an indelible part of her story.

The men who appreciate ancient planks of cedar and fir and oak, and who understand the relationship of ships, wood, salt and water, are few and hard to find. So the fact that two of them found Dorothy when she needed them, well, that’s just another testament to the luck and loveliness of this little boat.

Here’s a quick snippet of discussion I cut from back in 2013 (when we were fundraising for production funds) of John and Eric discussing what tack should be taken in restoring Dorothy, with Tony Grove: Three Men and a Dorothy Baby.

John Eric Tony kneeling before Dot

Dorothy – and we – thank you, John and Eric.

 

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

 

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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Off to see the Boats… the beautiful, beautiful boats!

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So we’re on our way!! (Left: Kate Bradford, our director of photography, in a rare moment in front of the camera)

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We’re off to the Classic boat festival this long weekend with a truck full of gear (see right- the exposed blimp and box of tee-shirts? this is how movies are made…) to capture some magical boat shots and interviews with people CRAZY about wooden boats. This is the first shoot that isn’t totally Dorothy-focussed, and I think it’ll be nice to get some light touches and atmospheric colour for the film. Not everything has to be about Dorothy – does it?

If this afternoon’s brief time with Angus and Sandy Matthews is any indication, we’re in for a fantastic shoot. They were marvelous! I was so captivated by the conversation that I didn’t even remember to pull out my camera for a photo, so we’ll have to get them another time (they are very photogenic, by the way… )

Owners of Dorothy in the 70s until 1984, they actively sailed her as a young family and did much to keep her alive. Angus confessed a secret about what he did for Dorothy while she was under his care – which Tony Grove said did much to keep her in good condition – which we have sworn not to reveal. But something we can tell you… It was Angus who provided Dorothy with the gift of a full suit of Fogh sails, which are waiting for her return to the water even now (thanks to his brother, an Olympic sailor who worked for Fogh.) We learned during our time with them this afternoon that it was apparently the first suit of gaff-rigged sails Fogue had ever done!

Then, the photos came out. Oh my, there are some beautiful shots of Dorothy under sail like I’ve never seen before! They will for sure make the film. Can’t put them up yet as we left in such haste for the ferry that they will have to wait until after Victoria and Port Townsend boat shows.

I’m personally so stoked to meet the many people who have written us or talked about hearing the Dorothy and are looking forward to the film. And we have some amazing volunteers who stepped forward to help us sell T-shirts (which fly out of the box whenever they come out) and enlist people in our doc film community – thank you especially to Harry Martin, a volunteer for the MMBC who has come over to see Dorothy a number of times and already has done so much for us in organizing help and volunteers. Thank you Harry!

Thank you everyone who has stepped forward to help, or even give encouragement that they are eager to see the film. THIS is how films are made… as a team, for a community, with passion and diligence and no small amount of sweat and persistence. So thank you again. We can’t do this without you.

And now, if you want a moment of levity, go to the Dorothy Documentary Indiegogo Kickoff party event on Facebook and look up the ridiculous video I posted yesterday to reveal the party location! It’s going to be an amazing event, full of artists who are donating beautiful work for the fundraiser, tapas by some incredible local chefs, music and dancing and oysters and Dark n’ Stormys, oh my! Please join, even if you can’t come personally, join virtually! Sign in and you can see my new video pitch for the film, get some photos of the action and download the dance mix curated by Bryan. It’s going to be a blast, so come if you can!

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More to come from the amazing festival grounds, for now, off to the Sticky Wicket to meet our team and plan out the weekend…

Much love, Tobi