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“Canada’s oldest sailboat” to hit the waters after a decade of restoration

GABRIOLA ISLAND, BC – After ten years of restorative work, the “oldest sailboat in Canada” will be hitting the waters again.

Dorothy was the former flagship of the Victoria Yacht Club and after being commissioned by shipbuilder John J. Robinson in 1897 for $1,800. The ship would go on to win the Queen Victoria birthday regatta in 1900 and passed through the hands of almost a dozen different owners through the next century.

One of those previous owners is Angus Matthews, who raised her sails from 1973 to 1982. Matthews is a member on the board of the Maritime Museum of BC, who now owns Dorothy.

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“Dorothy was the flagship of the Victoria Yacht Club and one of the very first yachts in the area,” says Matthews. “She was beautiful and graceful, and moved like a rocket.”

The museum acquired her in 1995. They sent her to Gabriola Island in 2012 for some repairs, which have now been completed. She’ll travel by ferry to the mainland on Tuesday, where she’ll head to a temporary new home in Ladysmith.

Matthews says, “A deal has been struck with the Ladysmith Maritime Society, which will care for Dorothy until the Maritime Museum of BC can establish a permanent home.”

In Ladysmith, she’ll need a couple of weeks in the water to allow her planks to expand because although they’ve been restoring her for 10 years, she hasn’t been in the water for over 20 years. After reaclimatizing, she will be accessible to the public through the form of daytrips to sea. The museum sees a long-term home for her in the Victoria Inner Harbour.

Tony Grove, who worked on the restoration, says the work should have Dorothy sailing the seas for a while longer.

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

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