Restoring Steinbeck's Boat: Woodshop monthly meeting (Free Event)

  • Saturday, January 11, 2020
  • 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
  • BARN Great Room
  • 40


  • Bring a guest!

Registration is closed

Learn about the restoration of the Western Flyer, the boat John Steinbeck chartered in 1940 for a six-week journey with marine biologist Ed Ricketts that resulted in Sea of Cortez, Steinbeck's pioneering book about ecology and marine conservation.

The monthly woodworkers' presentation, which is free and open to all, will feature a presentation by Chris Chase, project director for the Western Flyer Foundation, which is restoring the boat in Port Townsend and plans to use it to  help students, professional and citizen scientists, writers, and artists explore connections between land and sea, art and science, and people and nature.

Chase moved to Port Townsend in 1988 to attend the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. He became involved with the Western Flyer in 2015 as co-owner of Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op, which the foundation had hired to restore the boat. Chase became the foundation's project director in 2017, a role that involves both guiding the restoration and helping to shape the foundation's future. 

The Western Flyer was built in Tacoma in 1937. It was used to fish for sardines for many years, then was converted to a trawler, a crab boat, and a salmon tender as various fisheries declined and others blossomed. (The picture at the top shows it when it was new. The lower picture shows it in 2011, in very sorry state.)

A real estate developer bought the boat in 2011, intending to refurbish it and  float it in a moat as an accessory for a cafe in a hotel lobby. But before the boat could be restored, it sank — twice — while stored in Anacortes. It was raised both times and eventually towed to Port Townsend in 2013.

John Gregg, a marine geologist with a longtime interest in Steinbeck and Ricketts, bought the Western Flyer in 2015 and now heads the board of the Western Flyer Foundation. The board also includes Susan Shillinglaw, a scholar of Steinbeck's writing and a past director of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California.

(The picture shows the shipwrights adding supports as they began the restoration.)

Once the boat is restored, the foundation plans to use Monterey, in California, as its home port. The plan is to offer free at-sea experiential learning for schoolchildren and provide dedicated time each year for basic marine research as the boat sails the Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja California and the Sea of Cortez.


  • BARN's Woodworking & Small Boatbuilding Studio offers a free presentation on some aspect of woodworking on the second Saturday of most months. We offer free coffee and nibbles.
  • Please register so we know how many to expect. Feel free to bring a guest. You can indicate in the box provided at the bottom of your registration how many guests you will be bringing.
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