From the outside, SeaOcean Book Berth is easy to miss. Tucked in next to a cannabis dispensary on Stone Way, this little bookstore isn’t merely about boats—it’s a shop full of history. At the end of the month, though, it’ll close after 22 years.
In April, SeaOcean Book Berth owner—its captain, really—Christopher Flavell passed away from congestive heart and lung failure at the age of 81. Years of breathing in asbestos as a young boy on cargo ships lead to lung damage, one of the underlying causes of his death. And without Flavell, SeaOcean is, well, rudderless.
Christopher was a man of the water. He spent his early years on ships sailing along the African coast before later becoming a sea captain. He knew maritime law like the back of his wind-whipped hand, and spent his life traveling the world and collecting books about the ocean—nautical sci-fi, navy nonfiction, a whole genre about cooking on boats. The amount of books he’d amassed had grown large.
“It was just like, We have to get these out of the house,” says Shalynn Flavell, Christopher’s daughter. Over time, Christopher and his wife, Cecily Flavell—who, by the way, he met on an airplane after his mom, a psychic medium, predicted it would happen—gathered so much literature that it seemed almost fated for him to open a bookstore about all things maritime.
SeaOcean Book Berth, layered with maps, paintings, and compasses, became a home to return customers and new faces alike. “[It] was all so lovingly cultivated by him,” says Shalynn. “He loved the adventure of putting all the pieces together to create this journey.” People would come just to sit and talk with Christopher. Others would enter with no idea where to start until he steered them, such as a captain would, in the right direction.
Seattle’s nautical history is long and rich. Our city and its economy were built on lumber and fishing imports, shipyards and naval bases, freight and passenger transportation. Seattle still relies on this industry today through tourism, fishing, and ferry transportation. With SeaOcean’s closure, though, the city will bear one less gem of a resource.
Since his passing, Cecily and Shalynn have done what they can to keep the bookstore and Christopher’s dream of sharing history alive, but without that spark he lit in the hearts of his customers, the family is having to say goodbye.
“Every day, he got to get up and go to work and do the thing he loved,” Shalynn reflects. “No matter what, he was excited about it.”
SeaOcean—located at 3530 Stone Way North—will remain open for a final sale, which runs through late October when the shop closes for good.
Christopher Flavell is survived by Cecily, Shalynn, and his son Ian.