by Rhonda McBride
9:51 PM AKST, December 8, 2011
The Kalakala, a historic ferry which has plied the waters of Puget Sound and was later used by Alaska fish processors on Kodiak Island, is up for sale – for only one dollar.
More about that later. But first, let’s retrace the Kalakala’s colorful history. There are many nuggets to mine on www.kalakala.org. But here are a few.
The Kalakala was so sleek and futuristic, you’d never suspect that it was built on the hull of another ferry, the Peralta, which burned in an arson fire in 1933.
The Kalakala, pronounced, “kuh-lah-kuh-lah,” went on to become the world’s first streamlined vessel and set out on its maiden voyage in July, 1935,
Fares were 45 cents and moonlight cruises were a dollar a couple.
As it headed out from Seattle to Bremerton, Washington, the art deco ferry almost looked like a prototype of a spaceship, at least it would have to the modern eye.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, the Kalakala played an important role in the nation’s defense. The ferry carried thousands of shipyard workers and sailors to the Bremerton Naval Yard every day, so they could repair ships damaged in battle.
In 1945, she became the first ferry to be outfitted with commercial radar. And in 1953, visitors to the Seattle World Fair voted the Kalakala as the second biggest attraction, following the Space Needle.
By the late 1960’s, her glamour days were over. She became a workhorse for Alaska’s fishing industry. In the summer of 1970, she was used to process crab in Ouzinkie. And by 1997, the ferry was abandonefilled with scrap metal and other garbage. Volunteers came to her rescue. They removed the garbage and dug her out of the ground, so she could return home to Seattle.
One of the volunteers, Peter Bevis said at the time, “I think I’m close to her heart. I think she’s got to me.”
On November 6th, 1998, the Kalakala was towed into Seattle with much fanfare. There were plans to turn the old ferry into a museum and tourist attraction. Despite the early enthusiasm, community support for the Kalakala would later founder.
And today, you’ll find her in Takoma, more scarred and rusted than ever.
Her latest champion, Steve Rodrigues, is trying to find someone to carry on the dream of preserving the Kalakala.
Rodrigues owns the ferry, and says he will sell it for one dollar to anyone who will promise to restore her.
Rodrigues doesn’t have much time. The Coast Guard says the ferry is listing and in danger of sinking. It’s given Rodrigues an ultimatum: move the Kalakala by Janaury 1st or face fines of up to $32,000 dollars a day.
“We’ve got treasure,” Rodrigues told KING-TV in Seattle. “Let’s save it, let’s protect it.”
In the Chinook Indian language, “kalakala” means “flying bird.”
Back in the day, the Kalakala sure looked like she could fly. But today, those who love her fear, she’ll end her days as a junkyard albatross.
Copyright © 2013, KTUU-TV