January / February 2024

DOROTHY

One of Canada’s oldest yachts sails again
The 30’ sloop DOROTHY.

MARIANNE SCOTT

The 30’ sloop DOROTHY, built in British Columbia and launched in 1897, is one of the oldest yachts still sailing in Canada. After more than a decade of restoration, she was recently relaunched.

On a warm, sunny May 27, 2023, a truck pulling a trailer bearing a gleaming vintage sailing yacht drew into the Ladysmith Fisherman’s Wharf in Ladysmith, British Columbia. The yacht’s temporary mast was dressed with signal flags, a maple- leaf ensign fluttered from its top, and a flowery wreath festooned her bowsprit.

Roughly 300 spectators were on hand to observe the event, which marked the second formal launching of the 30' sloop DOROTHY. The first launching had been just shy of 126 years earlier, on July 26, 1897. Many people who had worked on her decade-long refit were in the crowd, as were five generations of descendants of her builder, John Robinson, and first owner, William Langley. One of them, Robinson’s great-great-granddaughter, Carol Bertram, stepped over the trailer beams to proclaim, “I re-dedicate this ship, DOROTHY, and we ask for blessings upon her, and all who sail her.” She then crashed the champagne bottle against the boat’s bobstay fitting.

The audience cheered and the truck carefully lowered DOROTHY down the ramp into the Salish Sea. Langley’s granddaughter Judith Branion, and three more successive Langley generations, also witnessed the launch. “My parents, aunts, and uncles sailed with our grandfather,” said Branion. “Watching DOROTHY enter the water again remains one of my happiest and [most] emotional moments.”

In 1896, William H. Langley ordered DOROTHY to be built at John J. Robinson’s boatyard in downtown Victoria. Victoria, British Columbia’s capital, occupies the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the largest island by area and population along the west coasts of the Americas. The Hudson’s Bay Company started formal British colonization here in the 1840s. When Langley ordered DOROTHY’s construction in 1896, electricity had come to Victoria and the Canadian Pacific Railway had connected Canada from coast to coast. Gold rushes, agriculture, salmon canneries, timber, copper, and coal provided jobs and riches for some island residents, mostly English and Scottish settlers.

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