Western Flyer owner up on rent at Port Townsend Boat Haven; boat draws Steinbeck enthusiasts
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
The Western Flyer, shown in the Port Townsend Boat Haven between two active projects, is now current on its rent.
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John Steinbeck

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The owner of a boat once used by author John Steinbeck, which has been in arrears in Boat Haven, is now ahead on the rent, Port of Port Townsend officials say.

Gerry Kehoe, a Salinas, Calif., businessman, brought the Western Flyer into the facility in early July.

He began making payments on the $2,000 monthly rent in October, the day before an eviction notice was scheduled.

He hadn't paid until two weeks ago when he sent in a wire transfer for November and December, port officials said.

The port received another for January on Thursday.

Rent notices are sent out the first of each month and are due no later than the 20th, according to finance director Amy Khile.

The Western Flyer has drawn almost daily attention from tourists and Steinbeck enthusiasts, Deputy Port Director Jim Pivarnik said.

“There are some people who come in here and try to channel Steinbeck, where they walk up and touch the side of the boat,” Pivarnik said.

The 72-foot derelict vessel was built by Tacoma's Western Boat Building Co. in 1937 and was chartered in 1940 by Steinbeck and a friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, for a six-week expedition to Mexico's Gulf of California.

Ricketts became the model for the character of Doc in Steinbeck's 1945 Cannery Row.

A native of Salinas, Steinbeck, who died in 1968, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.

His novel, The Grapes of Wrath, won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.

Kehoe purchased the Western Flyer for an undisclosed price in 2010 when it was moored in Skagit County.

It sank twice and had to be refloated before it was brought to Port Townsend for repairs in July.

Kehoe reiterated Friday that he plans to disassemble the boat, move it to Salinas and refurbish it as a museum and a tribute to Steinbeck.

No work has begun on the vessel, Pivarnik said.

It is located in the back yard of the Boat Haven along with other long-term projects and it can remain there in perpetuity as long as the rent is paid, Pivarnik said.

“As long as they are current and aren't causing any waste they can stay as long as they want,” he said.

“We have one boat that's worth $50,000 at best and the owner has already paid us $125,000 in rent,” he said.

“People get stuck with the boat and it's easier to pay the rent than to get rid of it.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 13. 2014 7:19PM
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