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The restoration of Dorothy - over a century old

by Dorothy Stern, Nanaimo Bulletin/Sail-World on 9 Jul 2012
Dorothy - hidden away for so long - look at those elegant lines! .. .
The love for restoring an old boat is a many faceted thing - to keep her history alive, to see her shine again. Old boats are a bit like old sailors - with a great store of experiences, with many a tale to tell, if only they could.

So it's heart-warming news that Canada's Maritime Museum of British Colombia is funding the restoration of Dorothy, a 9.1m (30ft) gaff cutter-rigged sloop. At over a century old, she is considered the oldest sailing boat in the Pacific Northwest. But, as Rachel Stern writes, Dorothy is rotten.


Yes, Dorothy is rotten. Her insides are being eaten away. For more than eight years she’s remained hidden from the public eye.

She could be suffering from iron sickness, but shipwright Tony Grove, who is restoring the yacht, won’t know for certain until he takes a closer look inside the yacht's hull.

Iron sickness occurs when different metals are used and react in high-moisture environments, which leads to rust and wood decay in the areas surrounding the metal.

The museum raised $35,000 to restore the hull, but also wants to raise money to restore the cockpit and interior. John West, a Maritime Museum trustee said the restoration was also made possible thanks to Grove working at a reduced rate.


'I’m just a step in the history of Dorothy’s life and I feel privileged to work on her,' said Grove.

Grove said he can’t wait to take apart the boards and uncover the treasure of knowledge left behind by shipbuilders more than a century ago.

Even though Grove has been a shipwright since the 1980s, he said he still learns something new when he takes vessels apart.

He also loves finding remnants left behind by previous builders such as an initial on a plank or tick mark. It helps him discover techniques that past boat builders used.

The 9.1-metre sloop is considered the oldest sailing vessel in the Pacific Northwest.

'We’re pretty sure she is the oldest registered yacht in Canada. She really represents the birth of yachting in British Columbia,' said John. 'Yachting is such a huge recreational sport in B.C. on the coast and we’ve got an example of what it was like when it first started.'


Dorothy was designed by Andy Linton, a pre-eminent Victoria naval architect, said West. She was assembled in John J. Robinson’s boatyard in James Bay in 1897.

Dorothy is a rare craft, constructed as a pleasure yacht, while most vessels created at the time were working boats used in the fishing industry or as cargo haulers.

She was commissioned by F. H. Langley a lawyer and member of the legislature, who sailed the ship for five decades. Subsequent owners maintained the craft over the years until she was acquired by the Maritime Museum.

Grove will begin work on Dorothy this fall. Previously, grove restored Trekka, a sailboat built in the 1950s by John Guzzwell, for the museum.

The museum hopes to have her repaired in time to sail in the Victoria Classic Boat Festival in 2013. Dorothy will be on permanent display in the Victoria harbour and be used in various boat shows to educate the public about the vessel’s history and the museum.


More about Dorothy:
Dorothy’s sizes and build: LOA 30ft, LWL 24.3ft, Beam 8ft, Draft 3.5ft, Displacement 5.86gross tones, she is carvel planked over oak frames with copper rove a rivet. She was originally not built with a motor, but in 1920 was fitted with a 1cyl Kermath engine, and today has a 10hours Yanmar.

For more information on the Maritime Museum or to donate, please go to mmbc.bc.ca. For information on Grove’s restoration of Dorothy, please go to www.tonygrove.com. For more information and news in the Nanaimo Bulletin, go to www.nanaimobulletin.com

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