John Steinbeck’s Boat Returns to Monterey

The legendary writer’s sardine boat is seaworthy again

PUBLISHED NOV 8, 2023 2:16 P.M.
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  Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project   Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

John Steinbeck’s boat was in sorry shape in 2015.

Seventy-five years before this, Steinbeck, the legendary writer known for classics like The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row, had chartered a 77-foot purse seiner, the Western Flyer, for a six-week fishing trip to the Gulf of California. By 2015, the boat was looking decrepit and covered in grime, but that’s of course not the end of this story.

Monterey County Weekly recently wrote about a $6 million project to restore the boat and bring it back to Monterey Bay as a floating interpretative center. It’s a fitting tribute to a boat that has some historic significance for the time Steinbeck spent aboard.

“During the trip, Ricketts and Steinbeck spoke about George Darwin (Charles’ son) and Vincent van Gogh, and made social and political comments in two respective journals that Steinbeck then reworked into one piece,” writer . “The Log moves from discussing the behavior of the amoeba under the microscope to ‘spiritual teleology,’ or ‘the tidal theory of cosmogony’—all that on board the Western Flyer, in between staring at turtles, red rock lobsters and schools of jumping tuna.”

The boat was officially back from Washington state as of Nov. 4.

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