The historic vessel used by author John Steinbeck during a voyage to Mexico is undergoing a major restoration at a Washington state boatyard.
Steinbeck and longtime friend Ed Ricketts spent six weeks aboard Western Flyer, the 72-foot sardine fishing vessel, in 1940. Steinbeck’s 1951 nonfiction work The Log from the Sea of Cortez recorded the six-week journey into the Gulf of California to gather marine specimens.
California businessman John Gregg now owns Western Flyer, built in 1937 by Western Boat Building Co. of Tacoma, Wash. The vessel is undergoing a $2 million restoration at Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op in Port Townsend, Wash.
Restoring the wooden boat, which spent at least a year underwater, is expected to take two years. Gregg chose Port Townsend for the work after watching local boatbuilders on the job, according to the Port of Port Townsend. Mark Stout of Scow Bay Boats is overseeing the project.
“Guys were working with hand tools and caulking boats — there is just a lot of local knowledge there that I don’t think is duplicated anywhere else on the West Coast. So I realized right away that that boat had to stay there,” Gregg said, according to a statement on the port’s website.
After local tradesmen complete the restoration, Gregg intends to use the vessel for educational purposes in Monterey Bay, Calif., near the city of Monterey where Steinbeck set his two of famous novels, Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.