The Western Flyer: Steinbeck's Boat, The Sea Of Cortez, And The Saga Of Pacific Fisheries

Hardcover | March 20, 2015

byKevin M. Bailey

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In January 2010, the Gemini was moored in the Swinomish Slough on a Native American reservation near Anacortes, Washington. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the rusted and dilapidated boat was in fact the most famous fishing vessel ever to have sailed: the original Western Flyer, immortalized in John Steinbeck’s nonfiction classic The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

In this book, Kevin M. Bailey resurrects this forgotten witness to the changing tides of Pacific fisheries. He draws on the Steinbeck archives, interviews with family members of crew, and more than three decades of working in Pacific Northwest fisheries to trace the depletion of marine life through the voyages of a single ship. After Steinbeck and his friend Ed Ricketts—a pioneer in the study of the West Coast’s diverse sea life and the inspiration behind “Doc” in Cannery Row—chartered the boat for their now-famous 1940 expedition, the Western Flyer returned to its life as a sardine seiner in California. But when the sardine fishery in Monterey collapsed, the boat moved on: fishing for Pacific ocean perch off Washington, king crab in the Bering Sea off Alaska, and finally wild Pacific salmon—all industries that would also face collapse.

As the Western Flyer herself faces an uncertain future—a businessman has bought her, intending to bring the boat to Salinas, California, and turn it into a restaurant feature just blocks from Steinbeck’s grave—debates about the status of the California sardine, and of West Coast fisheries generally, have resurfaced. A compelling and timely tale of a boat and the people it carried, of fisheries exploited, and of fortunes won and lost, The Western Flyer is environmental history at its best: a journey through time and across the sea, charting the ebb and flow of the cobalt waters of the Pacific coast.

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From the Publisher

In January 2010, the Gemini was moored in the Swinomish Slough on a Native American reservation near Anacortes, Washington. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the rusted and dilapidated boat was in fact the most famous fishing vessel ever to have sailed: the original Western Flyer, immortalized in John Steinbeck’s nonfiction classic The L...

Kevin M. Bailey is the founding director of the Man & Sea Institute and affiliate professor at the University of Washington. He formerly was a senior scientist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and is the author of Billion-Dollar Fish: The Untold Story of Alaska Pollock, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:184 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.8 inPublished:March 20, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022611676X

ISBN - 13:9780226116761

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Prologue

1: INTRODUCTION
An Iconic Boat, Steinbeck, and Pacific Fisheries

2: WESTERN FLYER
Setting the Stage

3: THE SEA OF CORTEZ
A Grand Trip on the Western Flyer

4: THE CALIFORNIA SARDINE FISHERY
A Story of Fortune, Politics, and Woe

5: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SARDINES?
The Ecological View of Ed Ricketts

6: ROSE-COLORED SEA
Captain Dan Luketa and the Pacific Ocean Perch Fishery

7: NORTH TO ALASKA
The Return of the Western Flyer to the Aleutians and the Red King Crab Fishery

8: THE GEMINI YEARS
A Tale of the Red-Fleshed Pacific Salmon

9: THE LONG ROAD HOME
End of the Voyage

Acknowledgments
Notes
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“There are many ways to write about this lovely book. Piecing together the history of the Western Flyer—the boat made famous by John Steinbeck’s voyage to the Sea of Cortez—Kevin M. Bailey delivers a fascinating, complex, and compelling portrait.  Bailey weaves together illuminating stories of how Steinbeck’s time on this sturdy, seaworthy vessel is reflected in his writing with tales of fishermen who skippered the boat, the seas they fished, and the fish they caught and ultimately didn’t catch, assembling a powerful and evocative history that might otherwise be forgotten, but which must not be lost if we are ever to return our once-plentiful ocean to abundance.”