The Lorna D made a Pacific journey during WWII. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

The Adventure of the Lorna D

Local schooner braved the Pacific during WWII

Ron Dumont was just a kid, he and his siblings, Barry, Donna, and Gordie were being brought up by his Mom Mabel on northern Vancouver Island. That’s when an exciting thing happened to the family. His Mom met a new friend, an adventurous sailor named Dick Davidge and it wasn’t long before they were a couple.

In 1953 when Dick Davidge was working at Victoria’s shipyard, the family moved to Sooke, making their home in the historic Scarf House.

Dick had been born in 1916 and by the time he was ten, he was helping his dad, build the 48 foot schooner Lorna D.

The boat was 13 ½ foot in the beam, with a seven foot draft. Her timbers were oak, with fir planking.

In September 1938 the family set sail for a long-planned trip to the south Pacific.

Lorna’s account tells us “the watches were divided into two 3-hour watches each in 24 hours,” and their bully beef diet was supplemented with flying fishes, tuna, and dolphins. While they were in Papeete, Tahiti, however, war was declared in Europe.

Dick found employment to keep them over the next few years, and Lorna got to know the market well.

“A live chicken was considered a fair trade for a spool of thread, and two chickens for a kilo of sugar,” she recalled.

The family was planning to embark for New Zealand when Pearl Harbour happened, and it no longer seemed like a good idea.

During their southern sojourn they visited Tonga, Fiji, Rotorua and the Marquesas. War conditions meant they used no running lights.

Lorna continued: “It was a rule at sea to climb the rigging every day at dawn and dusk, to scan the horizon for castaways, as it was quite likely, with submarine warfare, that we might come across someone in distress.”

On their return, steering for Tillamook, Oregon, they began to sight seagulls and kelp, and knew they were nearing land, but as they used no lightsand were always in danger of being run down at night.

Following the coastline, their first stop was at William Head quarantine station, where they were escorted in by the Royal Canadian Navy. They dropped anchor in Victoria Harbour on November 21, 1943.

A decade later in Sooke, Dick and Mabel’s family had increased with the birth of Linda, Wendy, Gwen and David. Dick went into a machine shop partnership with friend Don Roberts.

But the Lorna D was not forgotten; a friendl Lorna Davidge lived board the schooner that had served so well. Recently, Ron Dumont’s wife Gail recounted proudly “Even I got to sail on the famous Lorna D.”

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum

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