The derelict ferry Kalakala has been sold, but the dream to restore it to its former glory lives on.
Steve Rodrigues, the man so passionately determined to save the Kalakala ferryboat that he sacrificed all of his personal resources on it, including his home, no longer owns the historic vessel.
At a quietly arranged lien foreclosure sale Thursday, Karl Anderson, the Tacoma businessman who owns the Hylebos Waterway uplands where the boat is moored, took possession of the vessel in exchange for the $4,000 he claimed Rodrigues owed him in back rent.
“I have been totally unable to get any kind of cooperation from the former owner to try to resolve the issue,” Anderson said Friday, “and so I came to the reluctant conclusion that the only way I could do anything about it was to get control of it.”
Rodrigues was not present at the foreclosure proceeding, and on Friday he did not respond to requests for comment.
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News of the change of ownership brought no apparent relief at the Coast Guard, one of a half-dozen state and federal agencies where officials are wringing their hands over what to do about the dilapidated boat.
The Coast Guard declared the Kalakala a hazard to navigation last December after water began pouring in through holes in the hull, raising concerns that it would break free and sink, blocking the narrow waterway.
“To us it’s a continuation of the process,” said Lt. Cmd. Gretchen Bailey, chief of domestic vessels at Sector Puget Sound. “We haven’t really done anything except change the name of the owner. Now we’re just looking at the new owner to continue correcting the problem.”
“As far as the Coast Guard is concerned it’s still a navigational hazard and that will remain in effect,” Bailey said. “We’re hoping that this new owner will maybe have a specific direction he will take the Kalakala, and we will work with him.”
Rodrigues was in a quandary with the Kalakala because environmental regulators wouldn’t let him do repair work on the water, and the Coast Guard declared the vessel too fragile to move. Even if he had been able to move it, there was no place to take it.
Anderson said he does not have a specific plan at this point, but he said taking control of the boat was the first step before anything could be done.
While he was not legally responsible for the boat, Anderson said, people are pressuring him to take care of it — in part because he was the one who invited Rodrigues to bring the Kalakala to Tacoma in the first place, back in 2004.
“This is not something I wanted to do,” Anderson said, “But people were in a panic about it and they were beating me up over it. The reality was, I couldn’t do anything about making the Kalakala go away without his (Rodrigues’) cooperation, which I couldn’t get. Any attempts to do that were met with hostility and outrage.”
The most obvious of Anderson’s options is to find a way to move the Kalakala to the adjacent waterway, where he and his family own a large graving dock, one of the few places on the West Coast where large derelict vessels can legally be scrapped.
But that’s not what he wants to do, he says, and even if he did, he couldn’t for at least two years. The graving dock is leased for that long by Kiewit, which is using it to make pontoons for the new Highway 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington.
His first choice, Anderson says, is the same as it was six years ago when he offered to let Rodrigues park the Kalakala in the Hylebos for free. He’d like to see it restored.
“In the dream world, some Prince Charming would come up and say, ‘I have the money and I want to restore it,’ ” Anderson said. “That’s what Rodrigues wanted to do and he didn’t get anywhere.”
“Once the dust settles and our ownership is secure, we’ll start looking at what can we do with it,” he said. “Some of those people might reappear … who knows? I have no idea.
“I’m not closing any doors, but I’m not going to turn it over to anybody who’s not legitimate.”