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Tag: Kalakala


The Kalakala saga descends from oddity to absurdity

In May, Kalakala owner Steve Rodrigues accessed a makeshift gangplank to the ferry moored along Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway. (Dean J. Koepfler / Staff photographer)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The owner of the Kalakala is suing Tacoma businessman Karl Anderson for causing him mental anguish? File that under “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Eight years ago, Anderson took pity on Steve Rodrigues, the owner of the 1935 art-deco ferry who had lost moorage first in Seattle and then in Neah Bay. Anderson offered Rodrigues space on a site he owned on Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway, figuring that would give him time to put together a plan for saving the decrepit ferry.

But no plan ever emerged. The ferry just kept deteriorating to the point that it was in danger of breaking free of its moorings and damaging docks and other vessels, perhaps even blocking the much-used industrial waterway. Read more »


Where the Kalakala belongs: Anywhere but here

The Kalakala sits on the Hylebos Waterway March 28, 2012. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

It’s time to start writing chanteys – or maybe an epic poem – about the Kalakala. This floating calamity has entered the realm of legend.

Like the Flying Dutchman, the decrepit art deco ferry carries a curse, with its saga getting ever more twisted. Maybe it’s inhabited by ghosts, passengers fox-trotting to the Flying Bird Orchestra, which once played swing hits on its moonlight cruises around Puget Sound. Those who get too close to the Kalakala winds up beached on their dreams.

The immense, eerily decayed vessel has now snared its owner, its landlord, the Port of Tacoma, Citizens for a Healthy Bay, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard in its baleful spell.

For eight years, the Kalakala has been moored on the Hylebos Waterway at a berth owned by Tacoma businessman Karl Anderson. Anderson must rue the day he offered the spot to the hulk’s owner, Steve Rodrigues.

Others who had hosted the haunted hulk, the Makah Tribe and a landowner on Lake Union in Seattle, were ultimately able to get it towed off after extended battles. But Anderson and the port look very, very stuck with it.

If it stays put and sinks – only a matter if time, if nothing is done – it could plug navigation on the Hylebos. If it sank, the efforts to salvage it could undo a costly Superfund cleanup by stirring up toxic chemicals now capped beneath the waterway.

It’s got to go. But where? How? And who pays?
Read more »


Kalakala: The memory, the vision, the listing hulk

The 276-foot Kalakala lists in its mooring on the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma. (Janet Jensen/Staff photographer)

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Think of the Kalakala as a dream, not a ship.

She’s not that rusted-out corpse of a ferry now slowly sinking in the Hylebos Waterway, threatening to stir up the toxins in a Commencement Bay Superfund site. Busted by Bay Watch, the environmental group that caught her listing, that remnant of a great vessel must be put out of its misery in short order.

The real Kalakala is a memory of magical voyages across the Sound in a silver, streamlined ferry nearly the length of a football field; a memory of live orchestras and dancing, of plush chairs and a Horseshoe Cafe, of affordable luxury for wartime laborers crossing the waters to the shipyards of Bremerton. She is an icon of Seattle, a symbol of the 1962 World’s Fair.

The real Kalakala is not that rust bucket in the Hylebos; she is a story of dreamers.

After her career as a ferry ended, she was consigned to ignominy as a crab-processing plant on Kodiak Island, then abandoned there to rot on a mudflat. Seattle sculptor Peter Bevis, dreamer par excellence, spent 10 years and a fortune refloating her decayed remains, towing them to Seattle and trying to resurrect the Art Deco magic. Read more »