Sunday, May 30, 2004

Sink the Kalakala.

Steve Rodriques is considering sinking the 1935 art deco ferry Kalakala.

Speaking to the Clallam Bay/Sekiu Chamber of Commerce on May 19th, Rodriques clarified that Lost Horizons, which owns the ferry, may have to be dissolved, and the hull sunk to become a fish reef.

Accumulating costs, inability to find a permanent home for the Kalakala, difficulties in obtaining permits and the deteriorating condition of the hull have led him to consider this course.

The Kalakala Alliance Foundation plans to rebuild the hull, but specific construction methods are still under consideration. The Foundation owns all the ferry's remaining artifacts, including original furniture, glassware and sinks, and the all-copper wheelhouse, built to support the world's first F001 radar system. The Foundation also owns a data base of over 1000 historical photographs of the Kalakala, and computerized schematics of the original construction. The ferry itself includes two 1000-horsepower engines, capable of generating 7000 watts per hour, built by Anheuser-Busch (then Busch-Sulzer). The company had resorted to building diesel-electric engines in place of brewing beer during Prohibition. Westinghouse built the ferry's electronics and fire-suppression systems, the first of their kind. The Foundation plans to use the artifacts and slides to create a permanent historical exhibit.

"I will get the financing," said Rodriques. "The media follows the Kalakala. It is the world's most well-known derelict vessel." Of over 500 derelict vessels worldwide, only the Kalakala attracts this kind of media attention. A French company filmed the ferry's latest move from its last moorage at Seattle's Lake Union.

"Lost Horizons -- it will go," he said. "If I go into bankruptcy, it can go."

"I will recreate the inside without the shell, and Boeing will recreate that shell," said Rodriques, referring to the ferry's signature silver-colored streamlined steel outer hull, and to a grant he says he will receive from the aerospace and air carrier manufacturer. A company in Oslo, Norway, has proposed a fiberglass sandwich-plate system for the construction, all cold-work, with no welding.

The Kalakala is presently moored in Neah Bay, on the Makah Indian Reservation. Rodriques has been asked to remove the ferry by May 29, because the current in the Strait of Juan de Fuca makes it impossible to maintain stability. Heavy winds had caused the ferry to smack into the pier, requiring an extension of the pier, and the pumping of 35,000 gallons of rainwater from the hull.

"I made a mistake. The Makah know that. I promised them it will not sink. And it will not."

Anchorage and moorage are also impossible at Sekiu, but Rodriques has been promoting a Clallam Bay property, and has contacted the owner in Forks. He has collected letters of resolution and support from local communities. He says he has a letter from the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and that Forks will "give 100% percent." He doesn't know if Port Townsend will sign. He has requested a letter from Clallam Bay/Sekiu.

"Many people want it back," said Rodriques. "It served routes in Seattle for 30 years. About 200 veterans from 1941 and 1942 want to hold a reunion on board. I have protected the history of the vessel and its future." He hopes to take it to a place where there will be no offical problems. "Victoria loves the Kalakala, and may end up with it." He named Bremerton, Mukilteo, Friday Harbor and Bainbridge Island among the sites of failed attempts to find a permanent home for the ferry.

"Tacoma welcomed us," he said. "It costs too much although the moorage is perfect. It's sufficient for a dry-dock. I'm not excluding Tacoma."

"The meeting at Sekiu gives me hope," said Rodriques.

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