Supriya Ghosh

Western Flyer (boat)

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Western Flyer (boat)

The Western Flyer is a boat most famous for its six-week use by John Steinbeck in his 1940 Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) expedition that became the basis for his 1951 book The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Called the "most famous fishing vessel ever to have sailed," the 77-foot (23 m) boat was built in Tacoma, Washington in 1937 by the Western Boat Building Company. As of 2015, the privately owned boat is undergoing renovation in Port Townsend, Washington for future use as an educational center in Monterey, California.


Sea of Cortez

Steinbeck chartered the Western Flyer, then captained by fisherman Tony Berry, and put out to sea on the afternoon of March 11, 1940. The vessel started the trip to the Sea of Cortez in a leisurely fashion down the Pacific coast. The boat refueled at San Diego and on March 17 passed Point San Lazaro before making its way down the Pacific side of the Baja California peninsula. It put in at Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of the peninsula, where Steinbeck began collecting specimens.

After Steinbeck

Following Steinbeck's voyage, the ship was returned to its main purpose: fishing. Over the ensuing years it was used to harvest sardines, perch, and crab, angling from California to Alaska'a Aleutian Islands.

Discovery and refurbishment

In 1983 Bob Enea, the nephew of Tony Berry, began a search for the Western Flyer which had been renamed the Gemini. Enea discovered the boat in Anacortes, Washington in 1986 where it was still operating as a commercial fishing vessel. His attempts to purchase the boat from owner Ole Knudson were rebuffed until 1993 when Knudson decided to retire from fishing and offered to sell the ship to Enea for $100,000. Enea established the non-profit Western Flyer Project to raise money to purchase the vessel. The publicity generated by the announcement of the Western Flyer's discovery attracted the attention of real estate developer Gerry Kehoe who immediately purchased the boat from Knudson over Enea's objections, announcing plans to move it to Salinas where it would be placed in drydock as the centerpiece of a new theme restaurant.

Twice in 2012 the boat sprang leaks and sank, being refloated each time. After the second sinking, Kehoe transported the boat from Anacortes to Port Townsend, Washington to undergo refurbishment in preparation for relocation to Salinas.

In early 2015 the boat was sold to John Gregg for a reported $1,000,000. Gregg has enlisted Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op to restore the vessel to its historic glory, while exceeding modern safety, technological, and environmental standards. The vessel will include a custom ROV, designed by Gregg, that resembles a nautilus. In 2016, The Western Flyer Foundation was established with the mission to empower students in under served communities with a fusion of science and literature, inspired by the experiences of Steinbeck and Ricketts. Students will participate in the collection of real data, implementing a citizen science approach.


Western Flyer (boat) Wikipedia

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