Tag Archives: Trekka

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.

 

Our gal is 119 years, and counting

First, some background:

In about one month, it will be 119 years since Dorothy was launched into Victoria’s harbour waters for the first time, July 26, 1897. The news made the papers, of course:

July 26 1897 Dot launched

Imagine the scene: with one month to go, her owner, barrister William H. Langley, was doubtless doing what every owner would be doing right before a beloved boat is about to launch – frantically buying everything needed to outfit his little yacht. How do we know this? Because Langley saved every receipt for every single purchase he made for Dorothy, perhaps knowing his boat was something special. (Or maybe because he had O.C.D.)

Example of a receipt Langley

June 25 1897 Violas placingAs meticulous Langley was in preparing his boat for the water, he was still obsessed with sailing, and was racing his first yacht, Viola. Viola wasn’t fast enough for Langley though – he wanted a winning yacht. So he bought a design from Linton Hope, himself a successful Olympic yachtsman and the owner of the Thames Yacht Company in England. Langley intended to name his next racing yacht “Viola II”, but when he acquired the plans from Hope, they were named “Dorothy”, so he stuck with that.

Evidently, she was fast. The stories of her successful races and regattas up and down the Northwest coast, I’ll save for another post. Below is a picture from Dorothy‘s 100th birthday celebration, in 1997.

Dorothy birthday cake 100th

And now, the hard news…

You may remember that our last post over a year ago lamented the tragic situation of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. News broke in the community that the government had condemned the historic building that the Museum had occupied for 49 years, and they were forced to find a new home. The hope was that they could get a lease for the CPR Steamship Terminal building, unoccupied and in a central, waterfront location, but it was not to be.

(A full backgrounder of the MMBC tenancy timeline is here for anyone interested in the history: http://mmbc.bc.ca/flymetothemoon/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/MMBC-Tenancy-Time-Line-and-Backgrounder-FINAL.pdf)

Packing up, moving everything into storage, and archiving the four floors of displays was painful. The staff was whittled down to three, then two, plus volunteers. Locations had to be secured for the large artefacts, of which there were many, including two entire boats, the Tilikum and Trekka. Over 40,000 items had to be cleaned, examined, meticulously catalogued, wrapped and packed away. The task was enormous, but the staff and volunteers heroically went at it for 6 months straight. I’ll just share some photos of the time, which say more than I can put into words:

It was devastating for many of the countless volunteers, maritime experts and lovers of historical research to see practically all of the collections packed up and stored away. The unknown loomed: where would they be housed? How could they organize and store such a huge collection? Would anything be available to the public again? Was maritime history doomed to be relegated to a back alley storefront, a shelf in a library?

And now, the happy news:

Thankfully, the history of an entire province’s coastline is bigger than any single location, and, true to form, maritime history seems to have survived. Incredible as it seems, the forced move seems to have breathed new life into the organization, which had long struggled with the aging building and other issues.

A new board, staff, website and vision have been birthed from the ashes, and in May 2016, they opened the doors to the Society’s modest location in Nootka Court, with a selection of the collection’s very best on display, featuring an interactive journey into the Franklin Discovery, the Captains Cook and Vancouver Journals, as well as many original works by marine artist John Horton featuring the “HMS Discovery”. Check out their featured exhibits here: http://mmbc.bc.ca/exhibits/featured-exhibits-2 We salute you in your new start!

Also, because of the move, we finally found Dorothy‘s suit of sails! They were made in the 80s by Fogh sails, commissioned by her owner at the time, Angus Matthews. Here’s Tony Grove hanging on tight to the valuable find:IMG_2136_2

Onward ho!

MMBC & Dorothy‘s Future

Dorothy‘s fate has always been tied to the people who care for her. She has survived longer than any other yacht in Canadian history because she was loved, appreciated and restored again and again.

And now it appears that those at the Museum who have so enthusiastically revived the institution itself are embracing the chance to influence Dorothy‘s future as well. Tony Grove (who is charged with Dorothy‘s restoration for the MMBC) and I have been talking with new leaders and shapers at the MMBC, and we are extremely heartened by their avid interest and desire to make this little yacht’s story central to the province’s maritime future.

There will huge news forthcoming as talks deepen and as we prepare for Dorothy’s 120th anniversary next year! Look for another significant update in one month’s time.

There is so much to look forward to, and we thank you for joining us on this exciting journey.

All the best, now get out there and get sailing! Tobi & Tony