Restoring John Steinbeck’s Western Flyer | for Seattle Weekly cover


Seattle Photographer Daniel Berman | Seattle editorial photographer | (206) 387-3767 daniel@bermanphotos.com

A view of the Western Flyer ship once owned by  the author John Steinbeck, and now by John Gregg. After many failed attempts, the craft is being restored by Michael York at a dry dock in Port Townsend, Washington. In 1940, Steinbeck and a small crew navigated the Western Flyer on a successful, yet sometimes ill-fated marine specimen collection expedition along the Gulf of California. The adventures served as inspiration for Steinbeck's prized non-fiction book, "The Log from Sea of Cortez." Photo by Daniel Berman for Seattle Weekly.

Backed into the southwest corner of a large, unassuming dry dock in Port Townsend, Washington is a vessel with plenty of history. Maybe you’ve heard of John Steinbeck’s book The Sea of Cortez? This is the boat that took him and his team on their epic, problem-laden-but-ultimately-successful tour of the Gulf of California, then in its prime 75 years ago.

Today, the boat has new ownership under John Gregg, a geologist who spent $1 mil to call it his, and will likely have to spend a similar amount to fully restore it. Still, he’s dedicated to getting the boat ship-shape. Other people have tried before yet failed to do so, starting and stopping the restoration process for one reason or another – often financial, sometimes personal. There’s much more to this story, well-told in a fascinating piece by Patrick Hutchison.

The owner was unavailable for a portrait, but his manager…

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