Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Long Journey to Recovery of the MV Kalakala

That is Big Ed in front of the MV Kalakala at her anchorage on Lake Union, before getting evicted.

Prior to being towed through the Ballard Locks to Lake Union to its temporary home by Ivar's, the Kalakala had a prime spot on the Seattle Waterfront, where she got a lot of attention.

Prior her arrival in Seattle, in 1998, the Kalakala was discovered by Peter Bevis to be a rusting shell of its former self, run up on a beach in Kodiak, Alaska.

The Kalakala was retired from Washington's ferry fleet in 1967, sold to a fish cannery company which took the ship to Alaska where she was turned into a fish factory. Her insides were gutted, cement flooring added and fish processing equipment installed.

The Kalakala was beached in Kodiak in 1970 and for a few years was used to process shrimp.

After Peter Bevis found the rusting boat, recognizing her from her glory days as a stream-lined, art deco styled, popular, luxury liner of sorts, he went to work to take possession of the Kalakala and bring her back to Seattle.

In 1998 it became big news that the Kalakala had been successfully re-floated and was making its way to Puget Sound. There was concern that the ship would sink before it made it back to Washington.

But, the Kalakala made it to Elliott Bay and became a big attraction on the Seattle Waterfront. I remember when I first saw the Kalakala, up close, I was surprised at how small she was, compared to the Super Ferries. And at what terrible shape she was in. And I thought it was a goofy looking boat.

Much effort was made to raise funds to refurbish the Kalakala. But that effort was in vain, eventually leading to the eviction from Lake Union. In 2004 the Kalakala was sold to an investor who moved her to a new anchorage in Neah Bay, courtesy of the Makah tribe. But, that arrangement soon went awry, with the Makah evicting the Kalakala, suing the owners.

After its Makah eviction the Kalakala was moved to Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma, where it is currently supposedly going to be restored.

I have been in Tacoma at least 4 times since 2004. I have never seen the Kalakala. I think I have driven all over the Tacoma waterfront.

The Kalakala was born in 1926, originally named Peralta, working as a ferry on San Francisco Bay. In 1933 the Peralta was badly damaged by an arson fire. She was then bought by a Seattle company and brought north to be restored as a ferry and renamed Kalakala, which is Chinook for bird.

The redesigned, streamlined ship had some problems. The ship was hard to pilot due to the bridge being set back for the streamlined effect, making it impossible to see the front of the boat. Pilots had to look out of round portholes, rather than the usual big window.

The Kalakala was known for its rumbling vibration that shook the ship when she was moving. It became known by many nicknames, like Silver Slug. Seattle's Scandinavians called the Kalakala "Kackerlacka," which is Scandinavian for cockroach.

It has now been over 12 years since the Kalakala returned to the Puget Sound. It will be interesting to see if she successfully floats out of Tacoma.

In the below video you can see the Kalakala floating during its glory days. I don't know where it is floating. I assume it's somewhere in the Seattle zone. You see the Kalakala for a bit, then the rest of the video just seems to pointlessly scan the waterfront....


Kathy said...

I recognize the area in the video. It was taken in Victoria, BC. The large brick building in the background is the Empress Hotel. The Kalakala was a ferry between Port Angeles, WA and Victoria, BC for awhile.

Durango Northwest said...

Thanks Kathy, I sure know I was not recognizing where that boat was floating in the video.

Anonymous said...

I saw this yesterday (28 June 2012) while kayaking in the Port of Tacoma.
It is in sad shape and once again in the process of being evicted. They think it may not even survive towing out of the area.