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125-year-old sailboat being ferried to new home berth on Vancouver Island

Ladysmith Maritime Society will care for Dorothy until Maritime Museum of B.C. finds permanent home
Dorothy bound for Salt Spring Island in 1910. (Photo submitted)

A 125-year-old sailing yacht will catch a ride aboard a ferry on its way to the B.C. Maritime Museum.

Dorothy, the oldest registered operational sailboat in Canada, got its first free trip with BC Ferries in 2012 to Gabriola Island where it was stored and underwent restoration work with shipbuilder, teacher and artist Tony Grove.

According to a BC Ferries press release, when the Maritime Museum of B.C. acquired the 30-foot yacht in 1995, the years and the elements had taken some of the wind out of her sails, so BC Ferries provided shipping to Gabriola Island through BC Ferries’ community investment program.

“Dorothy was the flagship of the Victoria Yacht Club and one of the very first yachts in the area,” said Angus Matthews, former owner of Dorothy, and current board member for the Maritime Museum of B.C., in the press release. “She was beautiful and graceful, and moved like a rocket.”

Dorothy was commissioned by W.H. Langley and built in Victoria in 1897 by shipbuilder John J. Robinson for $1,800, the release noted.

One of the craft’s first accolades was winning Queen Victoria’s birthday regatta in 1900.

A few years later, Langley was so sure of what he saw from the deck of the yacht he signed an affidavit swearing to what may be the first official sighting of the legendary sea monster ‘Cadborosaurus.’ The document is still in the museum’s archives.

Dorothy spent a long stretch at anchor during the First World War, which resulted in the boat’s first restoration. It needed more repairs after it suffered a small fire in the 1940s.

Matthews and his wife Sandy owned the craft between 1973 and 1982 and were among nearly a dozen owners throughout ship’s life.

Grove is the most recent caretaker to breathe fresh life into the boat and agreed to store it while the museum raised money for its restoration and a temporary home.

“As I worked on Dorothy it became clear that she was ‘overbuilt’ to some extent which has factored into her longevity. With the restoration work done, and some regular maintenance, Dorothy should have a lot of good years ahead,” he said in the release.

The boat hasn’t been in the water in more than 20 years and will need a week at dock to allow its planks to expand before it can sail. The closure of the shipyard on Gabriola offers no good launch options, which is why BC Ferries is needed to get the boat to Vancouver Island where it will travel by land to Ladysmith where a deal has been struck with the. The Ladysmith Maritime Society will care for the boat until the Maritime Museum of B.C. establishes a permanent home.

Dorothy will be shipped Tuesday, June 28, on one of the new hybrid Island-class vessels on the Descanso Bay-Nanaimo Harbour route.

The Maritime Museum of B.C. envisions a permanent home for the sailboat in Victoria’s inner harbour, the place she first cut through the water and drew the gazes of admiring onlookers more than a century ago.

BC Ferries’ community investment program supports coastal communities and the employees who live in the communities in which the company operates. The program supports about 500 requests annually.

For more info on Dorothy visit the Maritime Museum of B.C. website at or Tony Grove’s website at

READ ALSO: B.C.’s oldest wooden tugboat being scrapped at shipyard in Nanaimo

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Dorothy bound for Salt Spring Island in 1910. (Photo submitted) Dorothy under restoration on Gabriola Island. (Photo submitted)

About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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