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Oldest yacht in Pacific Northwest being restored by Gabriolan

John West, Maritime Museum trustee, and Tony Grove pose in front of the yacht Dorothy. - Photo contributed
John West, Maritime Museum trustee, and Tony Grove pose in front of the yacht Dorothy.
— image credit: Photo contributed

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 Gabriolan shipwright Tony Grove 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.

Grove is restoring the yacht, which is more than a century old, for the Maritime Museum of B.C. in Victoria.

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 West, a Maritime Museum trustee. “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.

The museum raised $35,000 to restore the hull, but also wants to raise money to restore the cockpit and interior. West 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.

Boating is an important part of the province’s history but often the preservation of that history lies in the hands of individuals or organizations that fundraise to maintain it, said Grove.

“I don’t feel our maritime history is supported or looked after enough. The Victoria and Vancouver maritime museums are almost all self-funded so treasures like these are rare and are being maintained by the goodness of people’s hearts,” he said.

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.

reporter3@nanaimobulletin.com

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