Tag Archives: sailboat repair

Move ‘er on out!

Anyone know what to do with 100+ year-old caulking? It's got to go somewhere...

Anyone know what to do with 100+ year-old caulking? It’s got to go somewhere… Maybe in this box for now.

Big things afoot – or rather – atrailer, this week. Dorothy is getting ready to be moved out of Tony’s shop and into the yard for two reasons: a) the boatbuilder needs his shop back for a course beginning this Saturday, and b) the boat needs to get re-hydrated in preparation for re-caulking.

(Side note about “the yard”: there is an unwritten rule that a boatbuilder’s yard is to have no less than 3 inactive vessels at any one time. At this moment, Tony’s tiny acre is bristling with a 26-ft Folkboat, a 32-ft replanked but uncaulked West coast fishboat, 15-ft wooden sailboat, a ’65 Dodge van, a silver Avion “toaster” under repair, 2 working Subarus, and several hulls of varying condition and degradation. It’s not a mess, really, but a comfortable raft of boaty sculptures that Dorothy will be joining.)

Tony and Dorothy with the little 8-foot plywood pram Families will be building next week.

Tony and Dorothy with the little 8-foot plywood pram that 4 families will be building next week.

The first reason Dorothy has to move from her cozy and dry berth is that Tony’s shop will be full due to a Family Boatbuilding course, when 4 teams will each make an 8-foot Sabot pram in 4 days (sounds like a reality show!) Who knew you could build a boat in 4 days? We’re on Day 881 of restoring Dorothy (not even the entire restoration – that is just the time Tony has had her) and that’s the sum total of my (Tobi’s) experience building boats. So now we’ll see the reverse and how fast it can go!

As for the reason b) for getting her out of the shop, the basic premise is this: a wooden boat that hasn’t touched water for 10 years is likely to have wood with drastically lower-than-ideal moisture levels. In Dorothy’s case, her wood moisture content is around 8%, when it should ideally be about 16-20%. If she were to be re-caulked (cotton stuffed between her planks) with her wood so dry, and then put in the water, that thirsty wood will soak up so much water her seams would clamp shut much tighter than you would wish. 

So Tony’s challenge is to figure out how to wet her down in his yard and re-hydrate her to the point that she can be gently re-caulked, before returning to the sea to soak up more salt water (which, if you remember your Grade 10 chemistry, is a preservative for wood and one of the reasons for the name for this documentary “Between Wood and Water”).

How he’s going to hydrate her? Well I’ll have to save some details for the documentary…

Til next time,
Tobi and Tony, Dorothy and various wee boats

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

Engaging the power of community

Dorothy on water-sepia

So I told you last week I would reveal the “plan” I have up my sleeve for getting this doc produced. Well, ideally I would still love a broadcast partner to come on board. That’s the best case scenario because then we have a place to show the film once finished, and we could produce it under a more realistic budget. As I go to the Banff Media Festival next month, the Dorothy film will be one of the projects I bring to pitch, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

But my other plan – because dang it! we’re going to make a film about Dorothy, aren’t we??!! – involves partnering directly to our audience to make the film. In this day and age of indie filmmaking, the practice of crowdfunding through sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter has become immensely popular. Instead of relying on one or two big funders, we have potentially 1,000s of “little” funders who can contribute whatever they feel able towards the film. It all depends on outreach and building community, but thankfully that has become easier with the advent of social media.

PerksSome call this age the democratization of media because as slots for independent films on television become fewer, the cost of actually making films also continues to decrease. In some ways, filmmaking is actually getting a lot simpler: instead of going through 3rd party channels like expensive studios and distributors, we can partner directly with the people who want to see the film made. Producers are beginning to turn more and more to regular people to fund production in exchange for “perks” – everything from a merchandise and film-related swag, to an executive producer credit in the film.

Some big studios are even catching on to this. You might have heard in the news lately about the producers of The Veronica Mars movie, who aimed to raise $2 million and instead pulled in $5.7 million. The highest proportion of backers (23,227 people) put in just $50 to get a host of swag, including a DVD of the movie with a behind-the-scenes documentary and special bonus features. Another example: Zach Braff’s recent campaign for his indie feature “Wish I was Here” garnered $2.5 million with 36,000 backers. Now, these projects both have high profile actors and a cult following, so it’s easy to see how they could be successful.

But I would argue that Dorothy has an equally strong following – albeit local, and a relatively niche group – of passionate watercraft lovers who want to see her restored and celebrated as she should be. And it just takes a few of us – a few dedicated “super fans” who are willing to spread the word – to pull in a wider community of people. And before you know it, we have a collective force that can do a lot more together than a few of us can accomplish alone.

My approach to filmmaking is that I don’t have all the answers, and I like to work with a community to source out the answers I don’t have. I also have only limited resources. I work hard to do a good job telling the stories that come my way and honour them with my talents and a lot of energy. But if we go the unconventional indie route, we need more than just “Tobi and Kate”. We need a whole community to make this happen.

Our immediate need is to cover 3 essential shoots this summer and fall – one of which is coming up very soon in June when two of Dorothy’s previous owners (David Baker and Angus Matthews) visit her and go over her history with Tony. Another shoot will take place in Victoria as we catalogue the archives and conduct interviews with the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, as well as some interviews at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where she was berthed for so long. And a 3rd this fall at the Victoria Classic Boat festival where we hope to capture the vibe of the classic boat community.

To cover these, I plan to launch a small fundraising campaign at the Ladysmith Maritime Festival on June 8th, to run through the summer and culminate with the Victoria Classic Boat festival Aug 30/31-Sept 1. We have a few ideas up our sleeves (silkscreened “I Love the Dorothy” T-shirts, anyone?) of merch to sell as fundraisers and gifts, and we welcome all suggestions. If you are associated with a company that produces something we’d be able to resell, please get in touch.

That’s all for now! Hope you’re all enjoying the beautiful west coast weather and getting out on the water as much as possible.

Happy Sailing!

Tobi Elliott, Producer BETWEEN WOOD AND WATER

classic boat fest race2011

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

Dorothy Exploratory Part II: the Verdict

In early January, trustees John West and Eric Waal from the Maritime Museum of B.C. arrived on Gabriola to discuss Tony Grove’s discoveries regarding Dorothy. Tony had conducted an exploratory in late December which revealed the cause and extent of the century-old boat’s issues, and the trustees were about to hear the verdict, and to deliver their own about the next steps for the restoration.

John West and Eric Waal, trustees for the MMBC - photo by Tony Grove

As representatives of Dorothy‘s owner and ultimate caretaker, the Museum, and as those who know the most about her file, West and Waal will be significant voices in the documentary BETWEEN WOOD AND WATER. (I call them “the Bulldog” and “the Greyhound”.) It was Eric (above, at right) who first voiced concern over the fact that Dorothy‘s legacy fund was being depleted by storage fees, and doggedly set about bringing attention to her future. He convinced West (at left) to return to the board and between the two of them they have developed a strategy to get the old girl back into the water.

MMBC Trustees examine Dorothy with Tony G- photo by Emily Grove

That strategy happily led to her being trucked to Tony Grove’s Gabriola island shop, and allowed this documentary team to jump into the mix. (Dorothy‘s restoration – a compelling storyline that could be followed in real time – combined with her launch at the 2013 Victoria Classic Boat festival, which gives her story a suitably dramatic ending, proved an irresistible combination to this producer!)

Exploratory-Tony and Dorothy-Dec18-12-Tobi ElliottOn December 20th we documented Tony removing Dorothy‘s garboards, as written up in this previous post. So what conclusion did he draw about her condition? Is she doomed beyond repair or can she be saved without too much effort? You can read Tony’s summary in his own words at his blog post here. To keep this short I will quote his ultimate recommendation to the Museum:

“I basically had two suggestions: the first, and the cheapest, would be to put Dorothy back together with some new wood and floors and some deliberate caulking below the waterline; the second is to wood the hull, reef all the seams, repair any planking or damage, refasten where possible and re-caulk her whole hull.

The first option would allow her to sail away safely, but is not addressing her age-born ailments and she would have to be redone again possibly in a few years, or at least have ongoing heavy maintenance. The second option, which I feel is the best for her and which John and Eric prefer as well, is wood the hull (strip of all hull paint), reef all the seams, repair any planking or damage, refasten were possible and re-caulk her whole hull. At the same time we should strongly support the stem and stern to help minimize hogging, and in the end when all put back together possibly help correct any hogging which has occurred over time.” – Tony Grove

And so it was decided that the old girl will undergo an extensive restoration  – as extensive as the Museum can raise the funds for – this coming spring and summer. Tony estimates it will take approximately double the number work hours that was originally anticipated, but since it will have to be done at some point in her near future, both West and Waal decided that it might as well be done now. As the saying goes… no use putting off til tomorrow what can be done today.

For the purposes of the film, we continue to document critical points but won’t start principal photography until mid-March, when Tony actually begins her restoration. We continue to look for a broadcasting partner for the story and have some interesting possibilities, but no confirmed partners yet. Still, we believe that Dorothy is such an intriguing way to explore B.C.’s coastal history that her story will find a way to an audience, somehow. She has waited a long time for her moment to shine, and you can be sure we will be there to capture it!

Kate Bradford filming inside Dorothy Jan 2-13-photo by Emily Grove

Kate Bradford filming trustees John West and Eric Waal, along with Tony Grove, from Dorothy’s bow. Photo by Emily Grove.

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 ….

News about Dorothy

This is where we’ll update you week by week with new photos and behind-the-scenes bits as Tony begins the exploratory process on Dorothy.

Stay tuned!