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.
Above: Tony Grove, Gabriola Shipwright. Photo Credit: Tobi Elliott
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.
Robert Lawson inside Dorothy the antique wooden sailboat. Photo Credit: Janelle Huopalainen
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 volunteers who supported the Dorothy restoration at the Ladysmith Maritime Society
Photo Credit: Tobi Elliott
The Film About Dorothy "Between Wood and Water"
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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