Tony Grove – The Silva Bay Shipyard Boat Building School

by John MacFarlane 2018

Tony Grove

Tony Grove (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

You may know of Tony Grove in his capacity as a shipwright, but he is equally well–known as an artist, performer, teacher and writer. His interests are wide and continue to expand.

Tony Grove

Tony Grove’s workbench in his shop. Although not a canoe builder he has two fine examples of cedar strip canoes hanging over the bench. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

Growing up in Vancouver BC, Grove was not particularly interested in boats. He joined Vancouver Shipyards as an Apprentice Shipwright after high school. This program exposed him to all aspects of industrial ship building. After spending a couple of years with the woodworking department he was introduced to the concept of wooden boat building and repair. During his apprenticeship he tried all the trades – even the tough ones like caulking. He recalls that the activity was ‘ very industrial hard tough work’.

During this period he read a copy of Wooden Boat Magazine. He had not been exposed to that end of wooden boat building and it planted a seed of interest. He was inspired. After his apprenticeship he travelled, taking organized training and classes. He worked on yacht interiors at Cooper Yachts in Coquitlam BC. After two years out of his apprenticeship he joined a small woodworking operation at the Lynnwood Marina. It was a totally different work experience from the industrial shipyard. Instead it was very small and social team who worked closely together on projects.


Lumber for future projects or left over from past projects stored at the back of the shop. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

Gaining confidence, in the early 1990s he opened his own shop (Sea Grove Woodworking) next to Mosquito Creek (North Vancouver), where he also dabbled in custom furniture design and fabrication. He he describes now as ‘studio furniture’. He did some boat work. Joe Holmes worked in the shop space and did Easthope Engine work. He lectured to design school classes as well giving him his first taste in instructional technique.

Silva Bay Shipyard School

The buildings once occupied by the Silva Bay Shipyard School on Galiano Island BC. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

In 1999, he joined the Silva Bay Shipyard School as an instructor. He enjoyed the experience and when the position for a staff instructor position came available he applied. In 1999, he moved to Gabriola Island and became part of the staff in their second year of operation. The school was in a transitional phase and he spent his first two years learning more about the theory and technique of adult instruction and how to work with a group of people. There were 16 students in his class. He recalls that they were the most dynamic group he has ever taught – half were ex–tree planters and the others were ex–loggers.


A custom designed and built band saw specially adapted to cutting complex angles has a featured location in the shop. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

Grove took his work very seriously and created a formal syllabus for instructing on designing and building boat interiors. Since he could find no other examples anywhere in the world he had to start from scratch and document everything. His interior woodworking class ran for three months and was a great success.

His life was becoming complex – and he had taken on an outside contract to build a 34’ Ted Brewer designed sailboat that turned into a 3–year project. He purchased property on the island with a shop and enough space to undertake boat building. He anticipated an absence from the school to undertake this work. But he was unable to sever his connections fully with the school – and continued with ever increasing time commitments to both.

The Silva Bay Shipyard School existed from about 1997 to November 2010. Al Brunt took over from Tony Grove as Chief Instructor. The school seemed to have been continually in flux with pressure on the Board of Directors to maintain Provincial Accreditation. Tad Roberts was a member of the board of directors from 2002 until October 2009. During that time they had at least 5 or 6 different instructors, "some great, some disastrous". I was vice–chairman for perhaps half that time. Carie McAlister built and operated the School’s website for many years. Tad Roberts was involved with public relations for the school and with the construction and quality of the boats built and all administration issues. He lectured occasionally and visited and advised daily at times. Grove returned as instructor in the boat building class and also taught the boat interiors course.


There is already a sense of history in the shop with mementos of past projects decorate the outside of the artist’s studio that dominates the upper deck of one corner of the shop. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

As a result Grove carried two full time jobs simultaneously – one at the school and the other in his own shop. When the boat construction project was completed and moved out of his shop he took a sabbatical from the school never to return.


When he is not building boats or furniture Tony Grove creates wooden boat themed paintings. They are so popular he has to work extra hard to create new works when he wants to curate a personal one man show. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

Tony Grove is an active Judge as part of the team that conducts the annual Victoria Classic Boat Festival. His knowledge, training and experience gives him the grounding to spot excellence in the vessels that participate. The work is demanding (there are more than 100 vessels to judge) in a very short period of time. The festival is very popular with the public and even more so with the boat owners. He works with n elite team of judges who together possess years of specialized knowledge and skills.


A beautifully crafted half hull. (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

He is less active now as shipwright. He is now very active as an artist and teacher. He gives lofting classes, and is able to draw on instructional tools that are artworks in their own right including half–hulls, and models. When not occupied the shop floor makes a wonderful small performance space. It also provides space for mounting shows and exhibitions.


Tony Grove painting called the "Wherry" (Photo from the Tony Grove collection.)

He is still a young man I would not be surprised to see him branch out further afield, or, complete a book on fine boat interior design and construction that he has started but not yet completed. It would be a unique textbook to guide wooden boat designers, builders and enthusiasts worldwide. Have a look at his website to check out artwork, courses, services

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John (2018) Tony Groven  – The Silva Bay Shipyard Boat Building School. 2018.

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