February 2, 2016

The Western Flyer, Steinbeck's fishing boat from "The Log from the Sea of Cortez" is getting restored.

I just spent the weekend up in Port Townsend, Washington.

While driving around the peninsula, my friend mentioned that The Western Flyer, the fishing boat featured in the classic John Steinbeck book "The Log from the Sea of Cortez" was currently in dry dock in the Boat Haven shipyard in the town of Port Townsend. We wandered over there and found this beauty up on sticks.

steinbeck western flyer
The Western Flyer getting some work done in Port Townsend, WA

This is the famous, 76 foot fishing trawler that carried Doc Rickets, John Steinbeck and the rest of the gang from Cannery Row - as they adventured south from Monterey down around the tip of the Baja peninsula. They were there to survey and collect marine creatures for Doc Ricket's projects back home.

“The Log From the Sea of Cortez,” was  published in 1951.

steinbeck log sea cortez boat
many timbers are rotted out, lots of work to be done...


Western Flyer Steinbeck 

This large fishing boat has lived a tough life. She has sunk multiple times since 1951 - as can be attested to by the barnacle shells still stuck to the interior of the cabin.

A wealthy geologist has purchased the vessel for 1 million. He plans to put 2 million more into it - hopefully finishing the restoration by 2018. You can read more details about the project in this great New York Times article.

He freely admits he has paid too much for something that - arguably, has no monetary value.

Turns out, that Steinbeck book made a big impression on him.

It certainly made quite an impression on me. I list that book as one of the main reasons I committed to a career in Biology.

john steinbeck boat
stern section of The Western Flyer

If you find yourself around the top corner of the United States - near the Canadian border and the Straights of Juan de Fuca - go ahead and poke around the Boat Haven Marina in Port Townsend, Washington. This classic old boat will be there for a few more years. It is certainly nice to know its still around.

Apparently, the new owner has plans to convert the Western Flyer into a floating marine research vessel.

the marina at Boat Haven in Port Townsend

I still keep an old paperback copy of this Steinbeck classic in my main cabin. On the cover photo below, you can see what The Western Flyer looked like back in better times...