July / August 2024

Aboard: DOROTHY

A Canadian icon’s British antecedent
DOROTHY

NIC COMPTON

DOROTHY was originally designed as a gunter-rigged sloop; an optional yawl rig was never used. Her current gaff rig dates from the 1980s and is fitted with a new suit of sails made by Sanders Sails in Lymington, England. The logo on her ensign is that of National Historic Ships U.K.; she is No. 2477 on the NHS register, where she is described as a Thames Rater, as opposed to a Thames A-Rater, which is a lightweight river-racing craft.

Canadian boating enthusiasts in Ladysmith, British Columbia, were overjoyed when the 30' wooden sloop DOROTHY was relaunched in May 2023 after an 11-year restoration. Built in 1897, she was billed as one of Canada’s oldest yachts and possibly the oldest still sailing. An extensive archive of papers showed she was built in Canada from a set of lines drawn by British yacht designer Linton Hope. Her design was based on another boat, also named DOROTHY, that had been built in England in 1894, although that boat’s fate was unknown to the Canadian restoration team (WB No. 296).

By a strange coincidence, just a few weeks before the Canadian launching, I was aboard the “original” DOROTHY, catching the last rays of autumn sunshine on the River Hamble on the south coast of England. The owners were aware of the Canadian DOROTHY but had never contacted anyone to let them know that her sistership was alive and well.

There is little doubt that this is the original boat. The British DOROTHY was designed by Linton Hope as what he called a “single-handed cruiser” and built at his yard on the River Thames in 1894. Her dimensions don’t quite fit with this narrative, but I suspect this is because of different ways of measuring length. In Hope’s 1895 drawings, the British DOROTHY’s length is given as 30' LOA and 20' LWL. But the 1895 Lloyd’s Register of Yachts shows her at 20' LWL and 25' between perpendiculars, a measure naval architects use to mark the forwardmost and aftermost plank intersections with a boat’s stem and its transom or sternpost. A broker’s listing in 2015 had her as 32' 10" LOA and 22' LWL. By contrast, the Canadian DOROTHY is said to be 30' LOA with a waterline length of 24' 4".

Looking at photographs of the two boats side-by-side, the British boat appears to have a flatter sheer than the Canadian one, and her bow overhang appears much longer. The British boat has the original stemhead sloop rig, whereas the Canadian one had a bowsprit added in about 1950. The British boat has a longer coach roof than the Canadian one, and her mast passes through the coach roof instead of through the deck. It also has a skylight over the saloon, which the Canadian version lacks. Yet they are almost certainly the same design, interpreted differently by builders 4,700 miles apart and tweaked by a succession of owners over more than a century.

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