The Schooner Lorna D: Gone But Not Forgotten

by Dennis Minaker 2017

Lorna D.

The Lorna D under canvas sails. (Photo from the Dennis Minaker collection. )

Lorna D.

The Lorna D on the temporary ways just before launching. Note the house works assembled on the ground beside the vessel. (Photo from the Dennis Minaker collection. )

In September, 1923 a 48–foot hull was launched at Bird’s Eye Cove near Maple Bay, BC. Thus began the era of the schooner Lorna D. Considered then as the largest vessel built and launched locally, this handsome craft sailed on westcoast waters for the next 80 years, including an epic voyage to the South Seas by builder and longtime captain, A.J. Davidige.

Lorna D.

The Lorna D (Photo from the Dennis Minaker collection. )

Born at Southampton, England in 1883, Archibald Joseph David arrived on Vancouver Island in 1907 and soon married the woman who would share a life–long passion for sailing, Lorna Penfold Springett. Raised in Maple Bay, Lorna learned to sail and row from her father Louis Springett who had raced in his younger years with the Royal Thames Yacht Club.

Though Joe Davidge then owned the yacht Ashigamik, in 1915 he began construction of the Lorna D. As son Dick Davidge recalled in 1983, the bow was fashioned from the trunk of a naturally–curved Douglas Fir ‘knee’ growing above the shoreline. Known to pilfer lumber from local neighbours, the single–minded builder also salvaged planking from an overturned lumber scow in Sansum Narrows. Steering gear came from a private yacht wrecked off Witty’s Beach near Esquimalt. The masts were two carefully chosen spruce trees that Joe logged up the coast and towed back to Maple Bay for planing on the beach. Upon launching the hull in 1923, the family sold their Maple Bay home to purchase cotton sails and then moved on board. An engine was installed in 1931.

With construction completed in 1926, the schooner served for twelve years as the local family home cruising the summertime waters of Georgia Strait as a chartered vessel. In the off season, Joe found work climbing and maintaining the smokestacks of the Genoa Bay sawmill and the Provincial Legislature flagpole in Victoria.

Finally in September 1938 the Davidges’ dream voyage began, a return sail to the South Pacific aided by an additional southbound crew of three. In her journal Five Years Before the Mast, Lorna described the ‘weeks of rolling steadily on across blue summer seas, our sails filled with the boisterous trade winds; days of hot sunshine, followed by wonderful moon or starlit nights, or rushing through the dark, leaving a trail of phosphorescent fire upon the sea.’

After 45 days under sail, the Lorna D. dropped anchor in Taiohoi Bay of the Marquesses Islands where ‘natives came out in outrigger canoes, laden with gifts of bananas, limes, avocados, coconuts and other fruits unknown to us. The decks rapidly assumed the appearance of a market – chickens and ducks were tied to anything handy and a white rooster crowed us awake the next morning perched over the galley table’.

That welcome abundance was no longer present for the return voyage in 1943. With wartime rationing in effect, four months were spent simply gathering enough foodstuffs to last the trip back across the Pacific. Included on board for part of that sail were three fellow Westerners anxious to escape the turmoil of French Tahiti. Finally in November 1943, the Lorna D. sailed once again into the safety of Victoria Harbour.

Crew of Lorna D.

The crew of the Lorna D apparently with a Fijian couple. (Photo from the Dennis Minaker collection. )

In the February 1944 issue of Pacific Motorboat magazine Lorna detailed a description of the craft: ‘She is a 48–foot schooner with 13.5–foot beam and 7–foot draft. She is powered with a 15hp diesel auxiliary which has given good satisfaction and little trouble. It gives her about 4.5 knots in smooth water. We never used it at sea, only to enter ports and passes, and returned with some of the original 100 gallons of fuel which we left Victoria with five years previously. At sea, we relied entirely on our 1,000 feet of sail for propulsion. The Lorna D. has a ‘Tiny Tim’ 6–volt lighting plant bolted down on deck with a water tight hatch over it. This charges the batteries for binnacle and running lights, as well as a light over the chart table. The gas tank for this plant is on deck, too, doing away with danger from fire below decks. For navigational purposes our equipment included two sextants, stop watch, two compasses (one a spare), two taffrail logs (one a spare) with five rotators, barometer, and a set of large scale charts. Our chronometer is a $50, 16–size Waltham watch with vanguard movement and 23 jewels. It is kept in gimbals and has been given good care, which it repaid in good service the entire voyage. The method of navigation used is H.O. 211 (Agetons Dead Reckoning) and altitude and azimuth tables with American Nautical Almanac. We carried plenty of spare running gear and blocks, and had plenty left. Our tanks hold 300 gallons of water - there were 100 gallons left in the tanks when we made port.’


The Crew of the Lorna D. who brought her home in 1943: (l–r Mrs. Lorna Davidge, Dick Davidge, Captain A.J. Davidge, and Jasper Moore) (Photo from Pacific Motor Boat magazine (February 1944). )

Lorna D.

The Lorna D. berthed in the Inner Harbour at Victoria BC in 1943. (Photo from Pacific Motor Boat magazine (February 1944). )

Back in their home province, the Davidges continued living on board the Lorna D., usually moored at Maple Bay, until Joe died in 1959. Subsequent moorage was found in Sooke Harbour until Lorna’s death there in 1965. Dick Davidge sold the boat soon after. Both sailors are buried at a small roadside cemetery at Saseenos near Sooke.

Lorna D.’s ownership history from The Nauticapedia: "In 1926–1958 she was owned by Archibald J. Davidge, Esquimalt BC. In 1961–1965 she was owned by Richard J. Davidge, Victoria BC. In 1966–1967 she was owned by Allan D. Carlson, Duncan BC. In 1970–1972 she was owned by Arend J. Stamhuis, Port Coquitlam BC. In 1973 she was owned by David N. Whitmore, North Vancouver BC. In 1974–2011 she was owned by Dan Massie, Vancouver BC."

To quote from this article please cite:

Minaker, Dennis (2017) The Schooner Lorna D: Gone But Not Forgotten. 2017.

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