Tag Archives: Tony Grove

Dorothy through your eyes

Photography by Byron Robb

Dorothy is not only a fast-sailing little yacht, she also happens to be very pretty boat with a striking design, both structurally and sculpturally beautiful. Many of you have said in interviews about Dorothy that they believe her beauty is part of the reason she has survived so long.

Dorothy-41-John Poirier

photo: John Poirier

So Tony and I have not been entirely surprised by the number of photographers passing through these shop doors over the past year – both professional and amateur – eager to capture the essence of Dorothy. Most of them start by walking around her in slight awe, eyes alight as they slowly pull out their cameras and begin to frame some of the hundreds of images that have by now been taken of her.

Dorothy is the ultimate photography subject – both for boat aficionados, and for those who simply love beautiful shapes. Even though her insides are bared, and the light around her ranges from soft daylight from the upper windows of Tony’s shop, to harsh fluorescents to neutral spotlights, she takes it all in with grace.

The challenge of “shooting Dorothy” lies not so much in which angle to capture, but which image best expresses her. Is it her magnificent, 6-foot fan-tailed stern, as Calgary-based photographer Byron Robb captured in the image at the top of this post?

Or her slender bow with sanded cedar planks on display, as noted Gabriola photographer John Poirier captured below?

Dorothy-56-John Poirier

Or is it the grain and wear of her old-growth Pacific forest timbers, which captivated David Andrews?

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Another Gabriolan photographer, Bill Pope, stunned us with his generous series of HDR photographs, which can be seen on his Flickr set “Dorothy restoration”. There are too many images to post here so I encourage you to take a look. Here are two of my favourites:

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Some of the very best photographs from our visiting artists will be on display at Victoria’s 37th Classic Boat Festival, which runs next weekend, August 29th through the 31st. A few images that were donated by the artist will be available for purchase at the silent auction on Friday night, proceeds from which go toward the Maritime Museum of B.C. (which is undertaking Dorothy’s restoration).

In other news, what has been holding up Dorothy‘s restoration? Well, as most of you likely know by now know, the MMBC had decided last spring not to re-launch Dorothy this year as originally planned. They are dedicated to doing the job right – which necessitates raising more money than they have right now, which is only enough to make her structurally sound – by having her topsides and cabin restored as well.

They are also coming up with a strategic plan as to what should be done with Dorothy once she’s back in the water. It will require more than simply moorage at a location where she can be seen and appreciated to advantage. She will also need a team of dedicated volunteers who know and understand the care required of wooden boats, and people who will take her out sailing!

So if you are interested in speaking to someone about the legacy fund for Dorothy’s continued care and restoration, or to be numbered on the team of volunteers as a “Friend of Dorothy”, please contact either John West (director and trustee for the MMBC) at john <at> johnwest <dot> ca or Angus Matthews (former owner) at angus <at> angusmatthews <dot> com.

Tony Grove has not been idle when not working on Dorothy. He recently completed a lovely 15-foot Passagemaker “take-apart” sailing dinghy for a client, from Chesapeake Light Craft plans. He left just yesterday for the Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival in Aja, his newly acquired strip-plank 34-foot Atkins schooner, towing the brand new little sailboat. They made it safely across, and both Aja and the Passagemaker will be in the festival.

So, here’s to festivals and photographers, beautiful wooden boats, and to all with eyes for lovely lines and beautiful shapes!

We look forward to seeing you at the Festival next weekend.

Cheers, Tobi and Tony

Heritage Afloat – a week celebrating BC’s maritime heritage

HBC Newsletter header Feb 2014

February 17-23 is Heritage Week in British Columbia, and this year’s theme is wonderfully titled “Heritage Afloat”.

A not-for-profit, charitable organization supporting heritage conservation across British Columbia, Heritage BC writes this about choosing the theme for 2014: it “recognizes how our lakes, rivers and ocean coastline created a complete transportation network for a resource economy. From First Nations settlement and culture, to the first European exploration, to historic shipwrecks and lighthouses, to fish canneries and floating logging camps, water is an important key to our history.”

I love how everything in BC comes back to water – indeed Dorothy could not have survived so long without it! You can download BC Heritage’s Winter Quarterly newsletter here, which includes our story, DOROTHY: A living legend sets sail again.

I wrote the article’s intro almost absently, thinking of how many wooden boats must have perished, and how miraculous it is that Dorothy, of thousands of boats on this coast, would have survived. I would love to know your thoughts on this:

“The care of a classic wooden boat can be a delicate, uncertain thing. The fact that Dorothy has survived not only intact, but as a fast and sea-kindly little yacht for more than a century is owed in equal parts to her luck, her beauty and her solid Pacific northwest timbers.”

Happily going along with the theme that fits their mandate so well, the BC Maritime Museum asked Tony Grove, the shipwright currently working on Dorothy for her return to the water this fall, and I to give a talk at the Museum this week about Dorothy‘s restoration and some of the intriguing facts we’ve turned up in the course of researching her life. All are invited to come!

1 p.m. Wednesday Feb 19
28 Bastion Square, Victoria, BC

And… If you happen to tune in to CBC’s morning radio show On the Island with Gregor Craigie on a regular basis, you may drop in on a delightful conversation about our own lovely Dorothy tomorrow morning. Gregor recently spoke with Tony Grove and Angus Matthews, one of Dorothy‘s previous owners still very much involved in her life, to get the latest on the vessel’s restoration drama. The segment will air either Tuesday or Wednesday, and we wanted to give you the heads up so you can listen in. If you’re not on the island, you may be able to catch the live stream online here.

Remember: All manner of wonderful things float on water… but loveliest of all is the wooden boat.

Hope to see you Wednesday!

– te

Land-Ho! Campaign countdown party this Friday night!

Land-Ho! Campaign countdown party this Friday night!

To celebrate the close to an amazing fundraiser for the documentary about Dorothy, join us this Friday at Artworks Gallery on Gabriola.

When: Friday Nov 15, 7-9 PM

Where: Artworks @ the Village, North Rd, Gabriola Island.

What: Watch some Dorothy videos, listen to music by local musician Tim Harrison, enjoy some snacks and countdown with us a successful fundraising campaign for the local production of the documentary “Between Wood and Water” about Dorothy, Canada’s oldest sailboat.

**Note: Some of the artwork by local artists and entrepreneurs that hasn’t been claimed during the campaign will be available for purchase by donation. Come and see what’s there, you might just find a perfect gift for Christmas, and can support this film at the same time.

Event on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/698653636811454/
You can still donate here, campaign is live until Friday Nov 15 at midnight PST: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dorothy-documentary/x/1371948

Digging down to gold

Date: 1910 "Dorothy wins international race." Courtesy MMBC archives

Date: 1910 “Dorothy wins international race.” Courtesy MMBC archives

When I first learned that Tony Grove would be restoring Dorothy for the Maritime Museum of B.C., my immediate thought was, “Someone must document this!” But when I actually visited the MMBC and scanned through the treasure chest of supporting material chronicling her life on this coast – the photos, the wealth of logbook entries and letters of correspondence between her first owner, W.H. Langley, and her designer, Linton Hope – I realized this story could be much more than a documentary about the restoration process, it could be a wonderfully rich and substantial love story about sailing on this coast. 

Now, to those of you who love watching how-to videos of wooden boat restorations, (forgive me if I’m wrong here) but if we only focused on the restoration drama that’s happening in Tony Grove’s shop, the rest of the world would quickly bored. There’s only so much sanding, scraping and plank replacing that one can watch! Although a “restoration documentary” would have its own narrative arc, we need to see why people are going to such lengths to save this boat. What is so compelling about Dorothy? Why has she survived this long? 

Truth is, a wooden boat doesn’t survive for over a century, with 80-90% of her original planking intact, by chance. She had to have had an extraordinary level of care throughout her life. Someone, at every point of her life, was either sailing her, saving her, restoring her or searching for a better steward for her care than they could presently give. That is what I love about the Dorothy story: the drama lies in those who sacrificed over the years to keep her alive and sailing. 

Even if you don’t have a sailboat, have never sailed, or don’t like boats or the water, you likely have something in your life that gives it added meaning and depth. Not only can we grow in character from learning attention and care, responsibility and stewardship from loving humans, but beautiful objects, too, can make us grow. We all need something to love.

And the more you care for your lovely thing, whether it be a home, a guitar, a bike, or a VW Doc Bus! as my friend Mandy Leith can attest to, the more you learn how to keep your lovely thing in the best possibly condition, and the more your heart expands.

By focussing on the romance and relationship between a beautiful, functional object (or being) that brings you joy, and you, as the human stewarding its care, I hope to make this story universally appealing.

Here are some photos I recently discovered on my recent “dig” through the Museum’s archives:

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Dorothy Archives

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Campaign is still on for another 11 days! http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dorothy-documentary/x/1371948

Don’t delay, if you have thought about contributing to the documentary but haven’t yet, we could use your help now! We are at $5,560 and need to raise $10,000 for vital shoots this summer and fall.

Please spread the word and help make this campaign a success. Thank you!

Love, Tobi

A surprise shoot for spring

Tobi Elliott: Producer and occasional shooter. May 17, 2013. Photo by Tony Grove

Tobi Elliott: Producer and occasional shooter. May 17, 2013. Photo by Tony Grove

On Thursday this week, Producer Tobi Elliott grabbed camera and gear for an impromptu filming adventure as Dorothy‘s restoration expert, Tony Grove, headed to Victoria B.C. to meet master caulker Ted Knowles. Knowles had worked with boatbuilder Brian Walker for years, eventually taking over his boatbuilding shop off the Gorge waterway in View Royal. Walker had built many of Frank Fredette’s boats, who had been in turn an apprentice to J.J. Robinson, one of Victoria’s first shipwrights and Dorothy‘s builder in 1896.

Ted Knowles' 80 year old boatshop. Photo by Tony Grove.

Ted Knowles’ 80 year old boatshop. Photo by Tony Grove.

The Walker/Knowles shop is a shipbuilding gem, having been built sometime in the 1940s, and it truly offers a fascinating glimpse into history. It’s also a bit of an anomaly since its the last remaining shop along the waterfront of that part of Victoria. There used to be a number of small boat yards on the harbour, and Ted’s is the last. More importantly, it is one of our last ties to the west coast tradition of the fisherman boatbuilder, who built and maintained his own boat in his own yard. There are a few of these guys left, but mostly they have turned to building.

Tony Grove & Ted Knowles outside his shop in View Royal. screenshot ©Arise Enterprises

Tony Grove & Ted Knowles outside his shop in View Royal. screenshot ©Arise Enterprises

Tony wanted to see this shop before it closes up forever:

As with many workshops, the way these spaces are set up, designed and the tools used in them tells a story. Some might even say these spaces reveal the soul of those who worked in them. This story means that much more when the shop is almost a century old and has gone through many hands and personalities. 

When these shops are dismantled they reveal their hidden secrets; when they are demolished forever, that time in histroy is also erased. In this case, perhaps only this film recording will be the hard evidence of its existence, while the people who lived their lives in these spaces eventually fade along with the memories.

For me I love seeing these old shops: they teach me new ideas – which are only past ideas rediscovered and developed in a different era, when things weren’t available on demand – and show me the resilience and ingenuity of the people from our not-so-distant past.

Ted graciously showed us around the maze of maze of tools, large equipment, wood he’s been collecting from around the world (Mahogany, Honey Locust, Pacific Yew, Douglas Fir), generators, saws, designs, glues, varnishes and every manner of paraphenalia related to boatbuilding that he had been unearthing and organizing for months. It is a beautiful, functional space, and it was a privilege to see it before it changes hands at the end of June.

After doing a good bit of exploring, Ted showed us the second gem we had come to see: a stack of beautiful 100-year old Teak from first growth Burmese forests (now Myanmar) that had been salvaged from the decks of the Union Steamship CardenaBuilt in 1922, the hardworking, reliable S.S. Cardena provided marine service up and down the British Columbia coast for 35 years, bringing supplies to the resource communities up the coast, and returning to Vancouver and Prince Rupert with canned salmon for export around the world.

She was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1961, and Knowles rescued the precious teak from her decks for re-use. He felt some of the wood could be useful for Dorothy‘s restoration, because it’s the type of wood that would have been used to trim her in 1896 when she was built, and it was harvested in that era.

Ted is a very practical man, both when assessing the takedown of his historic shop, and the purposes and function of wood. He had this to say about using this wood on Dorothy:

“It’s not like,’Hey let’s throw a whole bunch of teak on Dorothy… because Dorothy isn’t a teak boat. It’s a boat that was built of native woods and built well and it’s lasted well, and it doesn’t need teak to be Dorothy. You don’t want to use teak as a pretentious geegaw or a flashy item, you want to use it for things that are really necessary, like maybe hatch slides. Or the top of a sliding hatch. Or companionway steps. Things where you touch, or you see, or you feel, and teak is appropriate for. It doesn’t have to be teak just because it’s teak.”

Thanks for the reminder, Ted: using the right wood for the right purpose is probably why Dorothy has lasted so long. I’m sure it’s a principle that Tony and the Maritime Museum will adhere to in her present restoration.

And thanks for the amazing tour of your historic shop. It’s one we won’t forget.

– Tobi Elliott