After my post about it four years ago, Western Flyer’s fate moved into uncertainty. We read in the local newspaper that the real estate developer who intended to restore it and move it into a hotel in Salinas, California stopped paying fees to keep it in Port Townsend. Its fate seemed perilous.
As desperate as its condition was, the Western Flyer was nonetheless an iconic vessel with a storied history that joined a lion of American literature, John Steinbeck, with Ed Ricketts, an equally great figure in American marine biology and ecology. It couldn’t be left to crumble into a pile of rotted wood and barnacles. In 2015 the Western Flyer Foundation was created.
The Western Flyer has been moved into the Port Townsend Shipwrights Coop where it is being painstakingly restored. However, it’s not being rehabbed just for the sake of renovation. The foundation plans to regenerate the vessel to a state of the art marine research vessel which will bring a marine lab and educational platform to coastal communities. Students will engage in marine science with the assistance of a remote operated vehicle and below decks workshop. A committee of qualified teachers, scholars, scientists, and engineers are collaborating to design curriculum specializing in the Western Flyer’s multi-disciplinary nexus: American literature, marine biology, and maritime history.
It’s an exciting project and the enthusiasm of Western Flyer’s proponents is infectious. Click here to go to the foundation’s website with a video and additional information about the project.
I plan in coming months to drop by to see Western Flyer’s progress.