From sea trials to a homecoming celebration to a well-deserved Classic Boat Award recognizing the amazing work of our restoration team, 2023 was a tremendous year for the Western Flyer Foundation. We grew our team, our programs served hundreds of students, and we built deep relationships throughout the wider Monterey Bay community at festivals and events. We’re grateful for each and every one of the supporters who volunteered their time, donations, and enthusiasm throughout the year, and look forward to a great 2024!
Restoring the Western Flyer
2023 was a landmark year for the Western Flyer. It began with an amazing team of shipwrights working to conclude years of restoration work in Seattle and Port Townsend, continued with successful sea trials for the first time in 15 years, and concluded with the Flyer having returned safely home to Monterey Bay. And along the way, the newly outfitted ship won a coveted Classic Boat Award for Best Restored Power Vessel!
Visitors to the Flyer in Seattle would have seen some obvious changes as the vessel returned to her former glory, including a brand-new mast and freshly installed smokestack. Other additions were less evident, but just as vital, such as an upgraded and expedition-ready galley with new cabinetry. And some would have required a visit belowdecks, where a new main engine with a Transfluid hybrid drive system, gearbox, and generator readied the Flyer for what proved to be successful sea trials in July.
Finally, with both sea trials and the Puget Sound restoration work complete, the Flyer departed Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal on September 1st en route to her once-and-future home. Delayed by stormy weather in Newport and Brookings, she sailed into Moss Landing the first week of October. We’re grateful to have the Western Flyer back home where she belongs—and to the entire restoration team and enthusiastic Washington community who made it possible!
Our Growing Team
New additions to our team contributed to the year’s accomplishments and set us up for a big 2024. First aboard was the Western Flyer’s new captain Paul Tate, a U.S. Coast Guard Certified Master with decades of experience working on research vessels, fishing boats, and private yachts. Next, Dr. Katie Thomas joined as our full-time Science Manager, drawing on degrees from Oregon and Duke as she began overseeing the science and research activities on the Western Flyer. The year’s final addition was Andy Beahrs (Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Sam Clemens), who we are thrilled to have join us as our new grants manager and writer.
Programs and Outreach
For the fourth year in a row, we cosponsored Cannery Row Days in partnership with the Monterey Public Library and the Cannery Row Company. This year’s event focused on the return of the Western Flyer, with a series of events that included presentations, tidepooling excursions, book readings, and much more, drawing an audience of Log from the Sea of Cortez fans old and new (recorded talks are now available online for anyone interested).
We also participated in festivals such as Whale Fest, the Steinbeck Street Fair in Salinas, the Monterey Bay Festival of Birds, and Ocean Arts Festival. Along with nearly 30 presentations that reached some 1,250 individuals, the events helped us build strong ties between the Western Flyer and local communities and build momentum for what proved to be a highly successful Homecoming celebration.
Meanwhile, and throughout the year, our Community Journal Project served 400 kids from 8 different schools and nonprofit partners. Whether from local schools like Everett Alvarez High School, North Salinas High School, Forest Grove Elementary, or Big Sur Charter School, or from summer-program partners that included, Girls Inc Central Coast, Youth Arts Collective, and Boys and Girls Club of Seaside, kids joined in free, interactive activities that blended marine sciences, visual arts, and creative writing.
The Return of the Western Flyer
The year’s signal highlight was the return of the Western Flyer to Monterey Bay after being away for 75 years. On Saturday, November 4th, thousands of spectators lined Fisherman’s Wharf for their first look at the Flyer, which cruised into the harbor following a boat parade filled with costumed crews and vessels. Monterey Mayor Tyller Williamson, Congressman Jimmy Panetta, and Supervisors Mary Adams and Luis Alejo joined the celebration as bands played and the line to tour the Flyer grew to over an hour long.
For many, the homecoming was a moving reflection upon Monterey’s history—but it was also a celebration of the future. Now that the Western Flyer has been protected and restored, we plan to fully outfit and maintain the vessel, allowing it to participate in a new era of marine science in keeping with the legacy of Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck. A new generation of students will feel their curiosity stirred as they encounter the ocean world for the first time; at the same time, the Flyer itself will become a center of ocean awareness, connection, and community in Monterey and beyond. We consider the accomplishments of 2023 to be the next step in the Flyer’s long journey and hope you will join us as we extend and expand its amazing legacy.
Please consider a donation to support research and education on land and aboard the Western Flyer.