Tag Archives: planks

A Grecian Wooden Boat

Speaking of wooden boats here…

We were sent some amazing photos of a wooden boat under construction in… wait for it… Corfu, Greece! Here are some of Spiros Cheimarios‘ photos of a traditional wooden boat he is building. He says he’s passionate about wooden boats (we know a bit about that infectious disease, don’t we Tony?) and likes to learn everything he can about their construction. Us too!

Can any of our readers guess the type of wood being used, the vessel type and what kind of rigging it has? Answers in a post next week!

And if anyone else has a project they’re working on – especially a restoration project or you’re building a type of boat with a unique history – send them to dorothysails [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll post them here.

Happy Thursday!

Sanding Dorothy and Screening Tees

Tony Grove boathull painting

We have some exciting news to report: a lovely breakthough for your favourite indie filmmakers:

Between Wood and Water – the documentary about the restoration of Dorothy, B.C.’s oldest and most beloved sloop – has attracted support from the National Film Board in the form of a filmmaker’s assistance grant!!! I heard that competition for the grant was particularly stiff this year, so the news is extremely heartening and we are well chuffed (English term) that a jury of Canada’s internationally esteemed film institution believes the Dorothy story is important. We thought so too!

The amount of money is not huge, (about 5% of what we need to complete production), but every little bit helps, and we are extremely grateful to the NFB for selecting this project.

(if you’ve never had the chance to check out the NFB’s unparalleled library of documentaries, animations and ground-breaking Canadian films, you really should, they are free online within in Canada. If you don’t know where to start, go to their curated playlists here.)

So as we prepare for our first major shoot of the restoration phase of this story in June, some things are going down:

1. Tony begins wooding Dorothy’s hull next week, stripping and sanding off the paint, to  reveal what’s going on and how extensive his work will be;

2. I am practicing my pitches for major networks congregating at the Banff media festival next weekend. One of them is of course the Dorothy documentary,  another is a maritime history and adventure series called Waterway Queens that was inspired by the research I did for Dorothy. The story of my opportunity at Banff can be read here, in an article in the Gabriola Sounder (this is what happens when you live on a small island: you make the local paper way more often.)

T-shirts-Dot-photo3. We are working on a fundraising campaign to raise needed production funds this summer. It MAY involve silkscreening “I love the Dorothy” T-shirts to sell (at right). Would you be interested in one? The graphic design is being done by one of the best designers I know, and Tony Grove himself drew Dorothy’s lines (see his artwork at top.)

Sanding Dorothy’s hull will be an arduous, dirty, dusty job, but the end, will result in the revelation of her beautiful wood, those ancient cedar planks that have stood the test of time. This very wood is what inspired me to pursue this story: the enduring relationship between wood and water.

Asking for money and running a fundraiser is not going to be particularly easy, either. But I know we have a great team to produce a great film, and so in the current climate of my industry, I have to be brave and find people and organizations to contribute. And this will result in relationships and connections to will last a lifetime, and I will be only one of many who can say “I produced a film” – because we ALL produced this film! It’s in this spirit of collectivity that many of the successful films are being made today.

The usual administrative hurdles remain to be overcome. As a production company, I may not actually be able to receive “gifts”, so one workaround might be simply to sell goods of varied pricing. (Coming soon: Dorothy T-shirts ranging from $25 – $200!) Hopefully I’ll have things worked out by next week, so those of you who have expressed interest in donating, thanks for your patience.

But when I think of the end result, I know it’s going to be worth it. We will have a film that speaks for those who love British Columbia’s maritime history. It will convey the passion of those who sacrifice so much for the vessels they love – wooden or otherwise. It will highlight the work of a wonderful contemporary artist – Tony Grove, and the art of boat restoration. It will promote the work of the B.C. Maritime Museum in Victoria, which is home to Canada’s largest library of nautical archives and has been keeping the maritime flame lit for over 40 years.

And it will speak to and inspire a new generation of men and women who, like the Teacher in Proverbs, find:

“There are three things that are too amazing for me,

four that I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,

the way of a snake on a rock,

the way of a ship on the high seas,

and the way of a man with a maiden.”

(Proverbs 30 18-19)

Victoria Classic boat fest poster2

A surprise shoot for spring

Tobi Elliott: Producer and occasional shooter. May 17, 2013. Photo by Tony Grove

Tobi Elliott: Producer and occasional shooter. May 17, 2013. Photo by Tony Grove

On Thursday this week, Producer Tobi Elliott grabbed camera and gear for an impromptu filming adventure as Dorothy‘s restoration expert, Tony Grove, headed to Victoria B.C. to meet master caulker Ted Knowles. Knowles had worked with boatbuilder Brian Walker for years, eventually taking over his boatbuilding shop off the Gorge waterway in View Royal. Walker had built many of Frank Fredette’s boats, who had been in turn an apprentice to J.J. Robinson, one of Victoria’s first shipwrights and Dorothy‘s builder in 1896.

Ted Knowles' 80 year old boatshop. Photo by Tony Grove.

Ted Knowles’ 80 year old boatshop. Photo by Tony Grove.

The Walker/Knowles shop is a shipbuilding gem, having been built sometime in the 1940s, and it truly offers a fascinating glimpse into history. It’s also a bit of an anomaly since its the last remaining shop along the waterfront of that part of Victoria. There used to be a number of small boat yards on the harbour, and Ted’s is the last. More importantly, it is one of our last ties to the west coast tradition of the fisherman boatbuilder, who built and maintained his own boat in his own yard. There are a few of these guys left, but mostly they have turned to building.

Tony Grove & Ted Knowles outside his shop in View Royal. screenshot ©Arise Enterprises

Tony Grove & Ted Knowles outside his shop in View Royal. screenshot ©Arise Enterprises

Tony wanted to see this shop before it closes up forever:

As with many workshops, the way these spaces are set up, designed and the tools used in them tells a story. Some might even say these spaces reveal the soul of those who worked in them. This story means that much more when the shop is almost a century old and has gone through many hands and personalities. 

When these shops are dismantled they reveal their hidden secrets; when they are demolished forever, that time in histroy is also erased. In this case, perhaps only this film recording will be the hard evidence of its existence, while the people who lived their lives in these spaces eventually fade along with the memories.

For me I love seeing these old shops: they teach me new ideas – which are only past ideas rediscovered and developed in a different era, when things weren’t available on demand – and show me the resilience and ingenuity of the people from our not-so-distant past.

Ted graciously showed us around the maze of maze of tools, large equipment, wood he’s been collecting from around the world (Mahogany, Honey Locust, Pacific Yew, Douglas Fir), generators, saws, designs, glues, varnishes and every manner of paraphenalia related to boatbuilding that he had been unearthing and organizing for months. It is a beautiful, functional space, and it was a privilege to see it before it changes hands at the end of June.

After doing a good bit of exploring, Ted showed us the second gem we had come to see: a stack of beautiful 100-year old Teak from first growth Burmese forests (now Myanmar) that had been salvaged from the decks of the Union Steamship CardenaBuilt in 1922, the hardworking, reliable S.S. Cardena provided marine service up and down the British Columbia coast for 35 years, bringing supplies to the resource communities up the coast, and returning to Vancouver and Prince Rupert with canned salmon for export around the world.

She was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1961, and Knowles rescued the precious teak from her decks for re-use. He felt some of the wood could be useful for Dorothy‘s restoration, because it’s the type of wood that would have been used to trim her in 1896 when she was built, and it was harvested in that era.

Ted is a very practical man, both when assessing the takedown of his historic shop, and the purposes and function of wood. He had this to say about using this wood on Dorothy:

“It’s not like,’Hey let’s throw a whole bunch of teak on Dorothy… because Dorothy isn’t a teak boat. It’s a boat that was built of native woods and built well and it’s lasted well, and it doesn’t need teak to be Dorothy. You don’t want to use teak as a pretentious geegaw or a flashy item, you want to use it for things that are really necessary, like maybe hatch slides. Or the top of a sliding hatch. Or companionway steps. Things where you touch, or you see, or you feel, and teak is appropriate for. It doesn’t have to be teak just because it’s teak.”

Thanks for the reminder, Ted: using the right wood for the right purpose is probably why Dorothy has lasted so long. I’m sure it’s a principle that Tony and the Maritime Museum will adhere to in her present restoration.

And thanks for the amazing tour of your historic shop. It’s one we won’t forget.

– Tobi Elliott

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 ….