Champagne popped, bison burgers flipped and live music flowed as dozens of politicians, First Nation leaders and business dignitaries appeared to toast the return of a humble Yukon pioneer.
MV Dorothy, a 9.9-metre, cedar-planked pleasure craft of the 1930s, sat peacefully swaying in the gentle waves of the Yukon River, her new coat of green paint glistening under the bright July sun.
The proud old boat gracefully welcomed the evening-long snapping of photos, cutting of ribbons and paeans of praise.
The restoration and elegant relaunch of the MV Dorothy was all the brainchild of Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. and its parent company, Alberta-based ATCO group.
“It’s a great way to bring our team together, bring our company together and also give something back to the Yukon,” said ATCO president and CEO Nancy Southern.
As a Yukon vessel, the Dorothy is indeed a worthy symbol of traditional Yukon hardiness, having survived decades of Yukon winters, battalions of wood-hungry muskrats and two unfortunate trips under the mineral-rich waves of the Yukon river.
Short years ago, the Dorothy languished under a tarp in the Yukon Electrical service yard. According to Southern, the decision to resurrect the Dorothy was made collectively among company brass and on the ground by local employees.
New life was granted to the ship over the winter in a meticulous “board by board” restoration carried out at a dry dock by professional boat restorers in Vancouver.
Most impressive is that the Dorothy should find her way back into the waves, rather than the display stand of a local museum. In late 2007, this did indeed appear to be the Dorothy’s fate, when she served a short stint as an exhibit at the Yukon Transportation Museum.
“At first, a lot of people were concerned about launching her back into the water — but we made sure that the marine restoration was seaworthy,” said Southern.
“We’ve had so many people come forward and say, ‘Wow, we can’t believe it’s back in the water — back in the water it looks so good,” said Yukon Electrical general manager Jerome Babyn.
“So many families of people here have ridden on the Dorothy — literally hundreds,” he said.
It is ironic that a ship freely plying the vast expanses of the Yukon for decades should have been created by incarcerated criminals. Yet, Dorothy was born in the hands of BC penitentiary inmates, as a project organized by the warden.
Initially a private pleasure craft, the Dorothy was drafted into service with the US Army months after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
Moved to Quiet Lake, Yukon, she was privy to the conversations of army officers supervising the construction of the Alaska Highway.
During the next 20 years, the Dorothy would be owned by a prospector, a mayor and several entrepreneurs before finally becoming a ward of Yukon Electrical in 1962 — where she was used to inspect and service the company’s many riverside operations.
In attendance at the Friday festivities was Bob Choate, a former Yukon Electrical Company manager who, in 1962, first wrote a $2,000 cheque adopting the Dorothy as an inspector of future hydro sites.
The MV Dorothy is now once again a pleasure craft, slated to serve the employees and managers of ATCO Group international.
“It’s a great way to break the ice with people, it’s a great way to introduce people to your area, it’s a great way to show people how you feel about your community,” said Southern.
The boat will be stationed primarily in the Marsh Lake and Tagish Lake area, familiar stomping grounds for the vessel.
“This is a new chapter in the Dorothy’s history, and I’m sure that it will be quite different than her previous assignments,” said Southern.