Oldest Sailboat Dorothy Returns to Water May 27!

Dorothy, the oldest functioning and registered boat in Canada returns to water this spring after 20+ years on dry land. The 30-foot sloop built in 1897 in Victoria B.C., is owned by the Maritime Museum of B.C. (MMBC)

Dorothy was moved to Gabriola Island in July 2011, so local shipwright Tony Grove could address her structural repairs. The MMBC entered into an agreement with the Ladysmith Maritime Society to temporarily house and continue work on the boat. So, she was moved off Gabriola in July 2022.

A man (Tony Grove) sits on a stool with one leg rested on his knee. He is in front of an orange and white wooden sailboat named Dorothy. Tony has light skin, greyish hair and glasses. He is wearing a black t shirt with a blue long sleeved shirt underneath and blue jeans.

Above: Tony Grove, Gabriola Shipwright. Photo Credit: Tobi Elliott 

a beautiful wooden antique sailboat named Dorothy sits on a boat trailer on the roadside. She is white and orange with wooden accents.

Dorothy in transit!  Photo credit: Tobi Elliott

Re-Building Dorothy: A Community Effort

Led by Robert Lawson (pictured below), and a team of dedicated volunteers worked diligently all winter to finish the refit begun by Grove, and prepare her to return to the water. 

Lawson designed and machined a new tiller, sleuthed out archival images and researched fittings and details such as the shade of her deck paint to match the boat as closely to the look and feel of her era. Lawson considers this a “re-fit” rather than a restoration – one of many over her 125-year lifespan. 

A boat of this era was only expected to last 25 years, but Dorothy’s design, craftsmanship, quality of wood and materials, and refits by previous owners have contributed to her longevity.

An older man with light skin and a long white beard sits on the front of a boat (Dorothy) in side a workshop. He is wearing a grey hat, a brown vest with a red long sleeved shirt underneath

Robert Lawson inside Dorothy the antique wooden sailboat. Photo Credit: Janelle Huopalainen

An older man with light skin and a long white beard stands beside a sailboat (Dorothy) inside a workshop. He is wearing a grey hat, a brown vest with a red long sleeved shirt underneath. He is holding a gold name plate that says "Dorothy"
An overhead photo of Dorothy a white and orange wooden sailboat in transport via ferry.
A group of smiling volunteers stand infront of a sailboat (Dorothy) inside Tony Grove's workshop on Gabriola Island.

Photo Credits: Janelle Huopalainen & Tobi Elliott

Previously, Grove had undertaken significant repairs over the decade in his shop, including repairs to the stem/keel, replacing failed keel bolts, new garboard planks and floor timbers. Dorothy was fully “reefed” (caulking material between the cedar planks removed) for the first time in her life. Grove repaired delicate plank seams that had been damaged, then re-caulked and payed the seams. 

When Dorothy returns to water, her extremely dry planks will “take up”, which means bilge pumps will pump water day and night until her 125+ year old planks swell and close the seams. After four days she will be hauled out, dried, then faired and painted. Plans are to relaunch Dorothy May 27th and she will likely undergo sea trials while her rigging is worked on, and hopefully will show at the Classic Boat Festival in September.

A group of smiling volunteers stand infront of a sailboat (Dorothy) inside a workshop.

A group of volunteers who supported the Dorothy restoration at the Ladysmith Maritime Society
Photo Credit:
Tobi Elliott

The Film About Dorothy "Between Wood and Water"

Tobi, a light skinned woman with blond hair is crouched inside the hull of Dorothy the wooden sailboat under repair.

Producer Tobi Elliott has been documenting the Dorothy story since 2012 for a film titled Between Wood and Water. 

A small crew will be documenting the relaunch at the Ladysmith Maritime Society, and new videos and stories will be released throughout the summer on the project’s website www.dorothysails.com

The MMBC holds extensive documentation on Dorothy, from letters between the builder-owner in Victoria and designer in England, logbooks from the turn of the century, and extensive photographs.

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By signing up for up our newsletter, we plan to use this list of subscribers as proof to broadcasters that there is an audience who want to hear Dorothy’s story.

Have connections in the documentary or broadcasting world? Email Tobi!

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  • Gail Elijah says:

    Please keep me informed as my family would love to be at the relaunch. I have diaries and and silver cup that my great grandfather WM Langley
    won, racing her. I would be happy to donate….

    • Between Wood&Water says:

      Gail, will you be coming to the May 27th celebration/re-launch? We hope to see you and your family there! – Tobi

  • Gail Elijah says:

    Yes we will be there

  • Carol says:

    Hi Gail, I am JJ Robinson’s great great granddaughter and will be at the launching. Would love to meet you. This is definitely an exciting event and looking forward to seeing Dorothy in the water!

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