The Western Flyer’s History

The Western Flyer, a Croatian-built 77-foot wooden purse seiner, was constructed at the Western Boat Building Corporation in Tacoma, Washington, in 1937. She was designed for and used in the Monterey, California, sardine fishing fleet from 1938 until 1948. The vessel was chartered in 1940 by Nobel-prize winning American novelist John Steinbeck for a six-week scientific voyage to Mexico’s Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) with accomplished marine biologist, Ed Ricketts. Their trip was memorialized in Steinbeck’s classic publication The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Ed Ricketts’ own landmark book, Between Pacific Tides, has served as inspiration for entire generations of marine biologists since. The most popular book published by Stanford University Press, it is still required study for students of marine biology today. In the 1960’s and1970’s the Western Flyer was used in the salmon, pollock, ocean perch, shrimp, halibut, flounder, and king-crab fisheries of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Re-named the “Gemini” in 1970, her identity was further obscured. By the 1980’s she eventually fell into disrepair, sinking twice at her moorings along the Swinomish Channel at Anacortes, Washington. The Western Flyer Foundation purchased her in early 2015 for a full restoration at Washington’s Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-operative—as a working historic classroom for inspiring the next generation of marine scientists.

For more information, contact us at