SAILBOATS

Soundings - - Contents - BY DEN­NIS CAPRIO

Dorothy, the old­est reg­is­tered sail­ing ves­sel in the Pa­cific Northwest, gets a ma­jor re­fit.

Dorothy is a lucky lady. Her beauty and per­son­al­ity have kept her afloat for 121 years, and her sta­tus as the old­est reg­is­tered sail­boat in Canada ought to add at least an­other cen­tury to her life. “Be­cause she’s pretty, she’s lasted and been looked af­ter,” the late John West, founder of the Vic­to­ria Clas­sic Boat Fes­ti­val, said in “Be­tween Wood and Water,” an upcoming doc­u­men­tary about the boat’s restora­tion. “Not only is she pretty, but she was struc­turally ex­tremely well-en­gi­neered, and she was built by first-rate crafts­men.”

Dorothy is be­ing made new again. “We owe it to her,” West said. “She’s got huge sig­nif­i­cance on the coast.”

Lin­ton Hope, an English naval ar­chi­tect and keen sailor, de­signed the orig­i­nal Dorothy, a 33-foot keel/cen­ter­board Thames Rater, in 1894. Thames Raters were born in the late 19th cen­tury and de­signed for the light airs of the Thames River in Eng­land. The Cana­dian ver- sion, also called Dorothy, but of­ten re­ferred to as Dorothy 1, was com­pleted in 1897 by John J. Robin­son of Vic­to­ria, British Columbia, for at­tor­ney Ma­jor W. H. Lan­g­ley. A per­sis­tently leaky cen­ter­board trunk caused Robin­son to ask Hope about re­mov­ing the board. As chance would have it, Hope had al­ready mod­i­fied the plans to a keel-only de­sign. Lan­g­ley suc­cess­fully raced Dorothy for nearly 50 years.

In 1944, Lan­g­ley sold Dorothy to Lin­ton Saver of New West­min­ster, British Columbia, near Van­cou­ver. Twenty years later, af­ter the boat had changed hands at least five times, Chuck and Pam Charlesworth, ar­chi­tects from Vic­to­ria, bought her, even though they found her sink­ing at her moor­ing. Such is Dorothy’s al­lure. The Charlesworths re­built her cock­pit but left the sole un­done, and they added sis­ter ribs to re­in­force the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing orig­i­nals. Most im­por­tant to the life of a wooden boat, the Charlesworths reg­u­larly sailed her, as an idle wooden boat is a dy­ing one.

Sandy and An­gus Matthews then joined the list of care­tak­ers. An­gus had been eye­balling Dorothy the way nau­ti­cally ob­sessed folks of­ten do, and asked Chuck Charlesworth for first dibs if he ever de­cided to sell her.

An­gus re­called what hap­pened next in a video: “The whole process with Chuck was funny, be­cause she was cov­ered with an old can­vas tarp at Oak Bay Ma­rina. I was the man­ager of Oak Bay, and I took Chuck’s name off the board of the ma­rina’s dock list so no­body else could talk to him.” The Charlesworths be­came good friends with the Matthews, so An­gus pes­ter­ing Chuck about sell­ing Dorothy “was al­most like ask­ing him if you could marry his daugh­ter.” The Matthews fi­nally suc­ceeded, buy­ing Dorothy in 1973.

Dur­ing their 11 years of own­er­ship, the Matthews re­habbed the in­te­rior, decks and hatches, and dressed her in a set of new sails. “Chuck de­serves most of the credit for sav­ing her,” An­gus said. “We got to her at a great stage, where we got to do the fun stuff, stuff you could see.”

Dorothy fell on bad times af­ter the owner of a pri­vate ma­rina in Sid­ney, British Columbia, bought her and left her to the el­e­ments. Hugh Camp­bell res­cued her, re­stored her to sail­ing con­di­tion and, in 1995, do­nated her to the Mar­itime Mu­seum of British Columbia, her cur­rent home. The trustees de­bated the op­tions: do noth­ing, com­pletely re­store her or sim­ply pre­serve her.

“Preser­va­tion wasn’t an op­tion be­cause we couldn’t dis­play her,” said mu­seum trustee Eric Waal. “This is Dorothy’s last chance for sur­vival.”

Tony Grove, a ship­wright, fine artist and teacher, was com­mis­sioned by the mu­seum to re­store her in the best way pos­si­ble. He has stripped the paint, reefed the seams be­tween the planks, in­stalled new bronze keep bolts, new floors and a host of other chores. He mostly works alone.

“[It’s] kind of a boat­builder’s dream and an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dig at the same time,” Grove said.

The launch­ing date re­mains un­der dis­cus­sion, and the en­tire project re­lies on con­tri­bu­tions along with money earned from the sale of Dorothy swag. So far, the red cedar for plank­ing and the oak for frames cost about $75,000.

Un­til Dorothy is ready for tours, the best way to see her is in the doc­u­men­tary that’s be­ing filmed. Trail­ers can be seen at dorothy­sails.

com and Grove’s blog about the restora­tion is at tony­grove.com. Or, visit the mu­seum’s web­site, mmbc.bc.ca. n

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Tony Grove mostly worked alone to re­store Dorothy.

Dorothy is the old­est reg­is­tered sail­boat in Canada. LOA: 30 feet (ex­clud­ing bowsprit) LWL: 24 feet, 4 inches BEAM: 8 feet DRAFT: 3 feet, 6 inches DIS­PLACE­MENT: 13,126 pounds EN­GINE: 10-hp Yan­mar diesel (orig­i­nally she was built with­out an en­gine, but fit­ted with a sin­gle-cylinder Ker­math in 1920)

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