This Vancouver family built a sailboat in time for its maiden voyage on Father’s Day. Then it was stolen

UPDATE on June 18, 7:45 p.m. PT: Owners of the boat said it was recovered by Vancouver police on Saturday after onlookers reported seeing people rowing it around Vancouver’s False Creek.

It was supposed to be a momentous Father’s Day weekend for the McDonald family.

Duncan McDonald, together with his wife Julie and two young daughters, spent more than a year building a sailboat from scratch. Christened by his daughters as “Salor DoThat,” the boat’s maiden voyage was set for this Father’s Day weekend, off the waters of Sunshine Coast.

But their plans were wrecked when the boat was stolen.

McDonald says he discovered Salor DoThat was missing early Friday morning, less than a day after they completed it.

In a Facebook post, the family says the boat was stolen on its boat trailer near Fraser Street and King Edward Avenue, by their East Vancouver home. 

“We put it out last night,” McDonald said. “I got a few neighbours to help me lift the boat and put it on the (boat) trailer that’s been waiting for it. And this morning, I was taking out the garbage before heading out and it was gone.”

A photo of the 14-foot sailboat before its completion. Julie McDonald said the family has received rallying support from the community after sharing news of the stolen boat on Facebook. The family has since reported the theft to police. (Submitted by Duncan and Julie McDonald)

The boat is a 14-foot flat bottom skiff with a white base from bow to stern, and a blue sail on its mast. Duncan says it is made of plywood from Home Depot, as well as wood scoured from the neighbourhood. The licence plate on the boat trailer is WHW 89A.

Julie McDonald says they have received rallying support from the community after posting on Facebook.

“It’s been a lot of tears,” she said. “But the amount of social media [attention] has been heartwarming.

“They think the boat probably doesn’t cost much money but they understand that emotional connection, the memories and the importance of Father’s Day.”

Duncan concurs.

“It’s been really nice to see how much people are touched by this stuff,” he said. “It would be lovely to see the conclusion of the story to be of putting it in the water and seeing how that goes.”

The couple said they have since filed a police report. CBC reached out to Vancouver police on Saturday morning and has yet to receive a response.

Journey ‘feels very incomplete’

Duncan McDonald, a teacher with a background in woodworking, started building the sailboat in the spring of 2021. 

“I wanted to do something kind of silly, challenging and interesting,” he said. “Something I had no business building whatsoever. I mean, who builds a sailboat?”

The decision came on a whim, he says, adding that he took sailing classes to justify building the vessel, and bought a book from the 1970s to learn to build it.

Eventually, his wife and two young daughters chipped in to help, he says: his six-year-old daughter learned to use power tools, while his toddler drew on the boat.

McDonald also recalls his daughters playing with Salor DoThat. “Cousins come over and they just jump on the boat. They pretend the grass is water.”

Julie McDonald says her husband had been working hard to achieve the goal of setting sail on Father’s Day.

Duncan McDonald had worked hard to complete the boat in time for its maiden voyage on Father’s Day, Julie McDonald said. (Submitted by Duncan and Julie McDonald)

The project also caught the neighbourhood’s attention, she says.

“I’m pregnant now and there came a time when I couldn’t work with the boat,” she said. “Anytime Duncan had to move it around or flip it, he’d have to call a couple of neighbours to come help.”

She says the community’s support since the boat went missing has given them reasons to stay positive.

“The journey or the story feels very incomplete,” said Duncan.

“My hope is someone sees it and goes, ‘Hey, that’s a sailboat’ and we can get it back.”

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