The reluctant owner of the former state ferry Kalakala said he plans to scrap the art-deco boat by the end of the month, giving the 1927-vintage vessel a “death with dignity.”
“I just can’t sit here and watch it deteriorate any further,” said Tacoma industrialist Karl Anderson, who took over ownership of the vessel in 2012 after the boat’s previous owner failed to pay rent.
Anderson’s plans would drop a final curtain on a succession of ill-fated efforts to restore the streamlined ferry increasingly regarded as more eyesore than icon, and which in 2011 was declared by the Coast Guard to be a hazard to navigation.
The 276-foot vessel, which plied Washington waters from the 1930s to the 1960s, has been moored in Tacoma since 2004, after failed attempts to restore it in Seattle, and a brief period in Neah Bay, Clallam County.
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Anderson said the Kalakala will be towed — on a calm day, because of its fragile condition — about a mile to another Tacoma dock where “a giant excavator will bite off a chunk of it at a time and haul them to a scrap yard.”
“It’s had no maintenance in 50 years. Anything of value was stripped out of it a very long time ago,” said Anderson, senior vice president of Concrete Technology Corp.
Anderson said he has paid about $500,000 to keep the boat protected and afloat, and likely will pay that much again to have it dismantled. He said he doesn’t know what its value would be as scrap.
Anderson said he made the Tacoma moorage available a decade ago to the Kalakala’s owner at the time, Steve Rodrigues, of Thurston County.
“He had a lot of plans, but nothing materialized,” Anderson said.
Anderson said Rodrigues didn’t comply with terms of the moorage or Coast Guard requirements to maintain the vessel safely, and the boat was taken over by Tacoma Industrial Properties, of which Anderson is treasurer.
Anderson said he no longer knows how to contact Rodrigues.
The Kalakala, likened in appearance to a floating toaster or Airstream Trailer, was unique among Washington ferries. Although it had a certain charm, it often was criticized as being difficult to handle, and subject to heavy vibrations.
After being taken out of service, it was beached in Kodiak, Alaska, and used as a fish cannery.
In 1998, Seattle artist Peter Bevis mounted a successful campaign to return the vessel to Seattle, but fundraising efforts for its restoration fell short.
Asked if he views the Kalakala’s impending end as the death of a dream, Anderson said, “The dream died a long time ago, when the state didn’t sell it to someone who could preserve it.”
Jack Broom: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2222