MONTEREY, Calif. (KION-TV)- UPDATE ON NOV. 4, 2023 AT 4:44 PM- A boat made famous decades ago by author John Steinbeck has found its way back to Monterey Bay on Saturday afternoon.
Tom Keffer, the board chair of the Western Flyer Foundation talked about the boat and the historic connection with the Central Coast.
“Eighty-three years ago, the Western Flyer left from Monterey to Baja California to do an expedition and looked at intertidal animals,” Keffer said. “They went on to write a book called Sea of Cortez that was very revolutionary about how we look at ecology.”
The Western Flyer was built for Monterey’s sardine fishery back in 1937, which was three years before the research trip with Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts.
“It was lost to history for a long time, rediscovered through its call sign about 30 years ago or 25,” Keffer said. “It sank twice up in the Anacortes area in the Salish Sea of Washington, resurrected, towed off to Port Townsend and sat there for a while until John Gregg, our founder, found it and decided he wanted to save the vessel.”
In 2015, Gregg purchased the Western Flyer but it was almost beyond repair. The restoration process since then made it possible for the boat to become operational again.
In a statement, Gregg said, “Now restored with a hybrid diesel-electric engine and state-of-the-art marine lab, the Flyer symbolizes a bridge, linking Monterey’s commercial fishing heritage with its leadership in marine science and education.”
Eddie and Anastasia Kane traveled from Ireland to see the majestic Western Flyer return home.
“We came to see friends, and we knew the boat was happening,” Kane said. “So we just decided to kill two birds with one stone because we don’t have boats like this in Ireland, but we were just really interested in the story."
The Western Flyer also holds a special place in the hearts of locals, like Janet Crosby of Monterey.
“For anybody who was born and raised in this area knows the history of John Steinbeck and Ricketts,” Crosby said. “And then where it was restored, was near my father’s in Washington, which meant even more to me.”
The Western Flyer Foundation told KION that they would like to turn the boat it into a platform for education and research, particularly for young people.
It's a homecoming for one sea vessel after spending three-fourths of a decade away from the Monterey Bay.
The Western Flyer—the sardine fishing boat immortalized by John Steinbeck's 1951 The Log from the Sea of Cortez will return to her home port of Monterey on Nov. 4.
"The Western Flyer was built for Monterey’s sardine fishery in 1937, and while it gained notoriety from its 1940 research trip with John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts, it’s had a long and storied past as a fishing boat,” said marine geologist John Gregg, founder and board member of the Western Flyer Foundation.
The boat has been restored with a hybrid diesel-electric engine and a state-of-the-art marine lab.
Gregg purchased the boat in 2015 and said it was almost beyond repair after having sunk several times. Gregg began a nonprofit Western Flyer Foundation and restored the boat after eight years.
The Western Flyer will now come back and take scientists and students to learn and feel the spirit of John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts, and their 1940 expedition.
The public is invited to a "Welcome Home" celebration at the end of Monterey's Old Fisherman's Wharf from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There will be community leaders and marine experts for this free event that features a boat parade, tours of the boat, and more.