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Blue Dot 161: An Epic Voyage With The Western Flyer

Port Townsend Shipwrights

In this episode, we explore the amazing story of the Western Flyer, the fishing boat immortalized by John Steinbeck in his 1940 book The Log From The Sea of Cortez. Fresh off the success and controversy surrounding The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck and his best friend and mentor in the newly emerging science of ecology, marine biologist Ed Ricketts (the model for the character of "Doc" in the novel Cannery Row) set off to explore the Baja California coast and the Gulf of California (more romantically referred to as "The Sea of Cortez") in 1940. 

The book based on the voyage was not a best seller, but over the years it has become a beloved classic that has influenced generations of ocean scientists and nature lovers.

Credit The Telegraph
John Steinbeck in the 1960s.

A lifelong fan of the book and Steinbeck's writings, Marine Geologist John Gregg set out to find the Western Flyer and restore it for use as a working marine science and education vessel once again exploring the Pacific coast from Alaska to Mexico. 

Dave and John share their love of the sea, Steinbeck and Ricketts and the power of a famous boat to inspire the human spirit 80 years after its famous crew members explored the tidal zones and colorful characters of the coastal towns of the Sea of Cortez.


Dave Schlom is the longtime host and creator of Blue Dot. From surfing to Voyager in interstellar space, rock guitar to orcas in our imperiled oceans, the topics on Blue Dot are as varied as the host’s interests and connections -- which are pretty limitless! An internationally respected space history journalist, Dave is also deeply fascinated by all aspects of the grand workings of nature’s awesome machinery on scales ranging from galactic to subatomic. And topics take in all aspects of the arts and sciences.
Matt Fidler is a producer and sound designer with over 15 years’ experience producing nationally distributed public radio programs. He has worked for shows such as Freakonomics Radio, Selected Shorts, Studio 360, The New Yorker Radio Hour and The Takeaway. In 2017, Matt launched the language podcast Very Bad Words, hitting the #28 spot in the iTunes podcast charts.