Our M/V Western Flyer – a Defever 41 – in the Sea of Cortez

In 1940, John Steinbeck commissioned the Western Flyer, a 76 foot trawler for a six week 4,000 mile ecological research trip resulting in the book “The log from the sea of Cortez.” The log from the sea of Cortez is an English language book written by American author John Steinbeck and published in 1951.

For anyone interested in reading a classic, the book details a six week March 11 through April 20 marine specimen collecting expedition that he made in 1940 at various sites in the gulf of California aka The Sea of Cortez, with his friend, the marine biologist Ed Ricketts.

When I bought our trawler – a 41’ DeFever trawler she was called “Bare Assets “. A picture of the naked Coppertan suntan lotion girl in decal form was affixed on the fly bridge.

I knew I would immediately change that name to the Western Flyer. My original plans after a refit was to re-create Steinbeck’s journey down the Pacific and into the Sea of Cortez. We accomplished that to a degree. Our Western Flyer under my command travelled from Portland on the Columbia River, out the infamous Columbia River bar, down the Pacific Ocean, down the Baja peninsula and into the Sea of Cortez as far as La Paz. Two years later and still under my command I Baja bashed her up the Pacific Ocean and safety into Huntington Harbor.

Our Western Flyer

The book “Log of the Sea of Cortez “ is regarded as one of Steinbeck‘s most important works of nonfiction, chiefly because of the involvement of Ricketts, his drinking buddy, who helped shape Steinbeck’s thinking, thus providing the prototype for many of the books pivotal characters.

The Western Flyer expedition discovered several new species, but that was not the goal.

They were interested in seeing how different species in the intertidal zone related to one another such as urchins, starfish, and hermit crabs.

1940 was the hinge year of our 20th century, Hitler‘s armies were rampaging across Europe but, the USA was still at peace, up until December 7, 1941, “a day that will live in infamy.”

Four years later, the end of World War II set in motion the trends to creative recreation. Everyone returning home was seeking their own version of adventure.