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Part 3 of 8

I have been asked about and need to clear up a question regarding Dorothy’s age. As far as we have extensively researched, she is indeed oldest registered still-sailing vessel in Canada; that is, the oldest sailing vessel in continuous use. She is not the oldest boat (there are some older ferries and barges in eastern Canada that are still on the water, but they aren't sailboats) and there are older sailboats that are dry-docked (for example the Tillicum at MMBC that won’t see the water again, unless all the world’s ice melts at once) but Dorothy is the oldest sailboat in Canada that has been in continuous use on the water and is still going.

I was hired by the Maritime Museum of B.C. to restore Dorothy after a previous survey had been done that condemned her. I was searching to discover the reasons behind a gap on both sides of the hull planking between the keel and garboard (about 3/8”), to assess her general overall condition, and look for any electrolysis problems that would in turn reveal electrochemical decay. The end objective is to undertake the repairs that will make Dorothy seaworthy again.

Dec 20, 2012

The first day’s task was to diagnose her ailments, beginning by removing parts and hatch covers from her cabin and putting them into storage. Knowing I needed to remove the garboards anyway, I started with the forward portion of the starboard garboard, made of cedar, and which only goes halfway to midship before ending at a butt. Under the garboard were signs of electrochemical decay (alkaline decay) and aged wood.

One of the first problems I found is a considerable separation between the stem, keel, keelson and the lap joint were they all meet up. Bolts that are being used to hold this area together are galvanized bolts, which look cheap (none marine) and improperly installed. There is iron slag, or rust, that has settled in this gap between the keel and stem lap joint, probably formed from those bolts rusting away.

For the planking, I was concerned the copper rove and rivets holding the planks in place were going to be hard to remove, but found they separated easily. The problem with the rivets is the peen over the rivets is a little light, which is why they were too easy to pull apart, but that said they have held together well all these years. The copper rivets were checked for brittleness by bending them, and seamed malleable and in relatively good condition; this shows whether electrolysis has been affecting the copper’s chemistry. There were also a later addition of #12 silicon bronze screws found in the planking that were randomly placed in an attempt at refastening.

Many of the frames have a sister (a partial or full extra frame next to the older one to support it) and in most cases have two, some solid oak and some laminated. Some of the laminated sister frames are showing signs of delaminating in the extreme bends. The film crew documented the process.

Restoring DorothyMe, John West and Eric Waal from the BCMMuseum looking over Dorothy

Restoring DorothyShowing the gap between the garboard and keel before the garboards are removed

Dec 21

This day was spent removing the forward port garboard, which is of the same dimension as the starboard side with similar characteristics underneath and problems with the fastenings. There is a plank against the keel deadwood acting as a spacer plank between the lead ballast and garboard plank. This spacer plank on the boat, up forward of the deadwood about 10 inches, had cotton caulking hammered into its edge, the result of improper caulking. This plank is hard oak and not soft cedar like the rest of the planking, and probably why the damage is minimal and didn’t split the plank too badly. The plank above the garboard, which is cedar, developed a split/tear when the garboard was removed (because of the strong adhesion of the paying compound – or, “putty” in the seams) and had already been repaired back into position by gluing it with epoxy.

The caulking – which is a layer of cotton set in the tight seams, or the narrow bottom edge of a plank seam, then using oakum as the seams get wide – so far all looks in very good condition. According to the records she was recaulked in the late 60s, with no doubt spot caulking throughout her life.

The paying compound used to fill the plank seams is Portland cement, along with a thin layer of some other finer compound for fairing the hull, both of which have held up and adhere well but has already posed a problem with difficulties sanding and reefing. This is obviously a more recent paying material used, as she would have originally been filled with red lead putty. The use of cement for filling seams was a bad idea left over from old wooden fishboat days and I must say I don’t like straight cement being used to fill plank seems and have found it always causes problems and damage. The cement is hard and doesn’t work with the wood; also when the wood swells the plank edges are crushed by the cement’s inflexibility.

Another problem I have found is Dorothy’s interior furniture, which was according to the records was rebuilt in the mid-70s and was unfortunately installed improperly, mainly the builder used galvanised slotted screws – now rusted and the slot full of paint – making it very difficult to remove without wasting a lot of time or doing extensive damage. An alternative to gently removing all the furniture is to cut all out and not try to save anything. The floor timbers where the keelbolts come through are unfortunately hard to get at, being trapped under the cabin sole, and in turn under the furniture, and most look pretty good but some are suspect but some definitely need to be replaced due to their disintegration from electrochemical decay.

After removing the garboards and viewing the inside, my analysis of her overall condition is that she is loose and open from simple old age, not due to just any single thing, such as a rotten keel. Despite a few things improperly done, it is obvious that many of the extensive restorations she has had over the last 50 years have been instrumental in her relatively good condition and is the reason why she is still alive and salvageable. The film crew documented the process.

Restoring DorothyBending a removed rivet to see how malleable it is

Restoring DorothyA floor timber looking in very poor condition

Jan 2, 2013

Two trustees for the MMBC, John West and Eric Waal, arrived today and we began discussing Dorothy’s issues and repairs. I basically had two suggestions: the first, and the cheapest, would be to put Dorothy back together with some new wood and floors and some deliberate caulking below the waterline; the second is to wood the hull, reef all the seams, repair any planking or damage, refasten where possible and re-caulk her whole hull. The first option would allow her to sail away safely but is not addressing her age-born ailments and she would have to be redone again possibly in a few years, or at least have ongoing heavy maintenance. The second option, which I feel is the best for her and which John and Eric prefer as well, is wood the hull (strip of all hull paint), reef all the seams, repair any planking or damage, refasten were possible and re-caulk her whole hull. At the same time strongly support the stem and stern to help minimize hogging, and in the end when all put back together possibly help correct any hogging which has occurred over time.

Restoring DorothyGap between the lap joint that joins keel to stem

Restoring Dorothy
Garboards removed for inspection

Restoring DorothyKate and Tobi filming all the action while crammed in Dorothy's Vbirth

Restoring DorothyFilming an interview with John and Eric who are representing the BC Maritime Museum


Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII



MUST SEE A Dorothy website: click here for link

BC Maritime Museum and Dorothy


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