DorothyTony GroveWooden Boats

Move ‘er on out!

By March 17, 2015 8 Comments
Anyone know what to do with 100+ year-old caulking? It's got to go somewhere...

Anyone know what to do with 100+ year-old caulking? It’s got to go somewhere… Maybe in this box for now.

Big things afoot – or rather – atrailer, this week. Dorothy is getting ready to be moved out of Tony’s shop and into the yard for two reasons: a) the boatbuilder needs his shop back for a course beginning this Saturday, and b) the boat needs to get re-hydrated in preparation for re-caulking.

(Side note about “the yard”: there is an unwritten rule that a boatbuilder’s yard is to have no less than 3 inactive vessels at any one time. At this moment, Tony’s tiny acre is bristling with a 26-ft Folkboat, a 32-ft replanked but uncaulked West coast fishboat, 15-ft wooden sailboat, a ’65 Dodge van, a silver Avion “toaster” under repair, 2 working Subarus, and several hulls of varying condition and degradation. It’s not a mess, really, but a comfortable raft of boaty sculptures that Dorothy will be joining.)

Tony and Dorothy with the little 8-foot plywood pram Families will be building next week.

Tony and Dorothy with the little 8-foot plywood pram that 4 families will be building next week.

The first reason Dorothy has to move from her cozy and dry berth is that Tony’s shop will be full due to a Family Boatbuilding course, when 4 teams will each make an 8-foot Sabot pram in 4 days (sounds like a reality show!) Who knew you could build a boat in 4 days? We’re on Day 881 of restoring Dorothy (not even the entire restoration – that is just the time Tony has had her) and that’s the sum total of my (Tobi’s) experience building boats. So now we’ll see the reverse and how fast it can go!

As for the reason b) for getting her out of the shop, the basic premise is this: a wooden boat that hasn’t touched water for 10 years is likely to have wood with drastically lower-than-ideal moisture levels. In Dorothy’s case, her wood moisture content is around 8%, when it should ideally be about 16-20%. If she were to be re-caulked (cotton stuffed between her planks) with her wood so dry, and then put in the water, that thirsty wood will soak up so much water her seams would clamp shut much tighter than you would wish. 

So Tony’s challenge is to figure out how to wet her down in his yard and re-hydrate her to the point that she can be gently re-caulked, before returning to the sea to soak up more salt water (which, if you remember your Grade 10 chemistry, is a preservative for wood and one of the reasons for the name for this documentary “Between Wood and Water”).

How he’s going to hydrate her? Well I’ll have to save some details for the documentary…

Til next time,
Tobi and Tony, Dorothy and various wee boats


  • Diane says:

    Interesting and exciting!

  • Byron Robb says:

    I am returning early next month. I look forward to a making a new set of photos.

  • Jonnie says:

    So glad to have found this blog. I’m in the process of repairing the floors of my 28′ 1930 Gaff Cutter so it is good to see someone else doing something similar. Interesting point about re-caulking a ‘dry’ boat. Flamingo is outside with just a tarp roof over, so exposed to sun and wind but not too much rain. I think I’ll get the moisture meter out and see what the level is. I doubt it will be as dry as Dorothy but there is definitely more sunlight creeping through the gaps than there was when I first put her there.

    • dorothysails says:

      Hi Johnnie, great to hear from you! Looks like an interesting project for sure. That’s a lovely orchard-shop.
      Flamingo must be glad to get some loving attention after all these years. As Tony says, you see fewer and fewer people taking on these types of projects, so it’s great to see this kind of ambitious restoration underway! Where are you located? How long has she been out of the water?
      Thanks for finding us and if you ever find yourself in a tight spot and wanting some advice, just get in touch! This little community needs to help each other…
      Cheers, Tobi and Tony

      • Jonnie says:

        Hi T and T, based in East Sussex UK. I think she’s been out of the water for a few years but uncovered for a lot of that so regularly soaked in our lovely English rain… Probably not too good for her but she is mostly sound… mostly😊

        • dorothysails says:

          And she’s got teak decks? Lucky you if you’ve found little rot – your job just got a bit less daunting! Dorothy’s decks are substantial but wouldn’t protect her if she was left out in the rain here on the wet west coast. A previous owner who had restored Dorothy to impeccable condition (in time for Expo ’86) then found her next owner had left her out in the rain for a few weeks and she had standing fresh water in the cockpit – and he promptly lost it on the new owner. If they had left that unchecked she could have been lost forever then and there… Lucky for Dorothy that she has had a few significant restorations in her lifetime and I think that kept her in pretty good condition until she was left on the hard for a decade.

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