A letter from the Board President

Dear Supporter,

We need your help! We are oh-so-close to getting the boat in the water and ready for her trip to her new home in Monterey, California, but there are still a few missing pieces.

Look how far we have come. For years, Western Flyer languished in the waters of Puget Sound, forgotten and unloved, where she could have easily been mired in the muck, just one of the countless derelict wooden boats that you see in the area. The thought scares me, but she could easily have been lost to us forever. Instead, despite her unpromising appearances five years ago, she was brought to Port Townsend. 

If you visited Flyer before the restoration started, you probably walked weak-kneed across the ancient deck (like I did), marveling at that history. Steinbeck walked here! 80 years ago! Ricketts slept in that very bunk! I fell in love with the boat, and knew I had to be part of the next chapter of her life. 

We’ve come a long way since then. The hull has been planked, the wheelhouse is nearly finished, the scuttles are in, the bulkheads are largely finished, and we’ve started on the tankage. But, there are two big phases left: finishing her systems, then building out the lab where young students will hopefully be as overwhelmed as I was by the history of the boat.

The biggest system yet to be done? An engine, and that’s where we need your help. It’s around $200k to procure and install a garden-variety fishing boat engine, but we’re hoping to do better. Part of Flyer’s new life will be similar to her old life: doing research up and down the West Coast. Those same properties that attracted Steinbeck and Ricketts to her — compact and tough — will continue to be important. However, we are hoping to add a hybrid engine to not only make her cleaner, but also give her unique research capabilities. The combination of a wooden boat able to be run solely on battery power will make her extraordinarily quiet, acoustically, electrically, and magnetically. That will allow us to do research on everything from marine mammals to the electromagnetic effects of offshore wind farms. But, that hybrid engine will cost an extra $100k, an amount that we are hoping to raise from our supporters.

The restored Flyer will be a reflection of the two men who made her famous: a boat of the people, with a mission of visiting overlooked places. A few extremely generous donors have taken us a long way on this restoration journey, but to cross the finish line we need contributions, big and small, from the entire Western Flyer community. As a believer in Flyer’s new mission, you can help us reach this goal.

When you give this holiday season, please keep Western Flyer in mind.

-Tom Keffer

President, Western Flyer Foundation

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