VIDEO: Famous John Steinbeck boat undergoes $2 million makeover

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A boat made famous by John Steinbeck’s “The Log of the Sea of Cortez” is getting a $2 million overhaul after having spent about a year underwater.

The Western Flyer was salvaged from La Connor Channel in Washington and hauled to Port Townsend, Wash., where restoration work is getting started.

"There she is. You can see she's a little caved in there," Peter Quinn, a Steinbeck fan and the owner of Port Townsend's Imprint Bookstore, told KOMO News.

"The Log of the Sea of Cortez" was a 1951 Steinbeck non-fiction book that chronicled the sea and nature during a 6,000-mile voyage with scientist friend Doc Ricketts. Steinbeck rented the sardine fishing boat and had it sailed to Mexico. The boat was built in Tacoma, Wash., in 1937.

Quinn said "the universe lined things up and brought the boat to Port Townsend," the perfect place because it is a well-known literary town and renowned for its wooden-boat craftsmen. Quinn said the town is thrilled that California businessman John Gregg, the new owner, ended the scuffle for ownership.

"The good news is that Mr. Gregg appears to want to keep her whole," he said, "and put her back together again here in Port Townsend, where we have some of the best shipwrights in the world."

Work on the Western Flyer is just getting started, including repair to the ladder Steinbeck climbed and the door he used, even the stem where he may have manned the wheel. Interior photos show why the restoration could cost $2 million: The boat is a mess but structurally intact.

"Interestingly, people [who] have come from other countries say, 'We're here to see Steinbeck's boat,’ " Quinn said.

The restoration is expected to take about two years.


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