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Historic 127-year-old sailboat Dorothy set for relaunch

Now owned by the Maritime Museum of B.C., the 30-foot wooden vessel underwent a “midlife refit” thanks to $50,000 in donations from individuals and companies as well as $250,000 in donated shipwright time.

The classic sailboat Dorothy has her official relaunch Saturday in Ladysmith, 127 years since she first hit the waves in the 1890s.

Now the property of the ­Maritime Museum of B.C., the 30-foot wooden vessel has ­undergone a thorough “midlife refit” by Gabriola Island­ ­shipwright Tony Grove and volunteers at the Ladysmith Maritime Society led by Robert Lawson, said Angus Matthews, a member of the museum’s board of directors.

“Tony did an amazing job,” he said. “I call him the boat whisperer. He can kind of bring boats back to life.”

Lawson’s group has done meticulous work to complete the refit over the past year, ­Matthews said.

Individuals and companies funded the $50,000 effort, while about $250,000 of donated shipwright time also went into the process.

Dorothy will be on exhibit at the society’s facility at the Ladysmith Community Marina until the museum finds space for her in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, which could take a few years.

“We are still seeking a home at the Maritime Museum and don’t have a dock at this point,” Matthews said.

The former site of the Bateman Gallery in the CPR Steamship Terminal building is being looked at as a possible museum location.

Saturday’s 1 p.m. relaunch of Dorothy will be at Ladysmith’s Fisherman’s Wharf at the foot of Ludlow Road.

The sloop is steeped in history, he said. “Any boat that was built before the Wright brothers flew goes back a bit.”

It was donated to the museum in 1995 by its last private owner, Kim Pullen, said Matthews, who owned it himself with his wife, Sandy, from 1973 to 1982.

“So I’ve sailed her a lot,” he said. “I’ve sailed my whole life and I’ve never sailed anything like her. When she hits the wind just right, she literally takes off and it feels like you’re sailing a skateboard.”

The Daily Colonist covered the launch in its July 27, 1897 edition, saying that “the little yacht took the water in a series of lively and pretty leaps.”

Dorothy is also “stunningly beautiful,” Matthews added.

“People are so attracted to her,” he said. “That’s why she’s had such great community support to get her back sailing again.”

Dorothy was renowned as a racing boat, he said, and is believed to be the oldest B.C.-built and B.C.-registered sailboat still active.

“She was one of the first really competitive sailboats built in Victoria.”

Barrister W.H. Langley had her built in J.J. Robinson’s boat shop, located at the site of what is now the Inn at Laurel Point.

“Langley had a boat that wasn’t quite fast enough so he commissioned the building of a British-designed boat, which ended up being the Dorothy,” Matthews said.

Having the relaunch on Swiftsure weekend is a happy coincidence, he said, and it is possible that Dorothy could be entered in Swiftsure’s inshore event at some point.

Matthews said that racing took Dorothy to places like Port Townsend and Cowichan Bay in her earlier days.

“There used to be huge races in Cowichan Bay and as many as 5,000 spectators.”

Donations can be made to the SV Dorothy Fund in support of ongoing maintenance and future activities at

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