The Western Flyer Foundation has named its first executive director who will oversee the administrative role of the famous fishing vessel’s new future as a scientific research vessel and educational classroom.
Sherry Flumerfelt started her new job on July 5, working from her home in Pacific Grove. She has 20 years of experience in starting and running non-profit organizations.
“With the launch of the Flyer in June, it’s time to design and build the program that will take advantage of the boat,” John Gregg said in a foundation press release. Gregg bought the Western Flyer several years ago and started restoring it. “Sherry’s wealth of experience in the community and in the maritime industry will be essential for this next phase,” Gregg said.
The Western Flyer was a seiner (named after the type of fishing net used), working in Monterey Bay during the height of the sardine industry. It was made famous when author John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts chartered it for a marine specimen-collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez in 1940. The expedition led to Steinbeck writing the book “Log From the Sea of Cortez”, published in 1951. .
The boat, which underwent a major restoration in Port Townsend, Washington, is now in Seattle, fitted with a hybrid engine. She is expected to return to Monterey Bay in October and then be moored at Moss Landing, where she will be outfitted for her new role.
“I think the role I will play is to take the (nonprofit) organization to the next chapter,” Flumerfelt said. This will include implementing programs around education and research.
“Steinbeck and Ricketts wouldn’t have wanted to see the boat as a museum piece,” Flumerfelt said. “We will keep the historical significance and move forward with the research.
“Running a nonprofit is no different than running a business,” she said. “There are community outreach, fundraising and day-to-day operations management activities to help the boat achieve its visions.”
The foundation will soon hire managers for educational and scientific programs and will eventually have an office.
Prior to joining the foundation, Flumerfelt, a Canadian citizen, was the founding director of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, where she spent eight years building and growing the startup into a successful and influential group.
For eight years prior to working for the trust, Flumerfelt served as a consultant, supporting clients including the Environmental Defense Fund, California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, California Fisheries Fund and EcoTrust.
From 1999 to 2007, she was Program Manager at the Coral Reef Alliance, where she led education and conservation programs throughout the Western Pacific and the Caribbean.
A single mother of two teenagers, Flumerfelt was born in London and raised in London and Ontario, Canada. She holds a Masters in Anthropology and International Development from the University of Guelph in Ontario. She has been in the United States for 23 years.
She said she was not actively seeking a new position before joining the Western Flyer Foundation. But someone gave him the job description.
“There was something about the Western Flyer Foundation and its mission that sounded exciting and I decided to apply and here I am,” she said.
“The goal (of the foundation) is that we would love to be back here in Monterey at the Coast Guard Pier,” Flumerfelt said. “We are trying to figure out how to make it work. We work with the city and the Coast Guard.
Flumerfelt had been a Steinbeck and Ricketts fan for many years. “Everything they represented appealed to me,” she said. “They are timeless. They could write that here and now.
She remembers reading Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men” while attending school in Canada. “And now I live around the corner from one of the Ricketts houses,” she said, “and the other way is one of the Steinbeck houses.”