The Kalakala isn’t going anywhere soon, and, for once, that’s good news.
On Tuesday, the derelict ferryboat was securely tied to new steel mooring dolphins in Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway, easing fears that the 1935 vessel will break away from the shore and crash into other boats and docks nearby.
“We put in some honest-to-goodness mooring dolphins,” said Karl Anderson, owner of the property where the Kalakala has been tied up for eight years. ”Hopefully, the Coast Guard will say it meets their standards for safe moorage.”
Last December the Coast Guard declared the Kalakala a hazard to navigation, an official designation giving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authority to seize the vessel and destroy it.
Neither the Corps nor the boat’s owner, Steve Rodrigues, could come up with enough money to move the boat and scrap it – a cost estimated at between $2 million and $4 million – let alone to fix it up, which Rodrigues insists is possible.
The new mooring dolphins, plus better bilge pumps on board, have helped stabilize the Kalakala but have not solved the larger problem, said John Dwyer, chief of the Coast Guard’s inspection division in Seattle.
“The hull on that vessel still is in very poor shape,” he said. “Until it’s fixed or removed, the ‘hazard to navigation’ designation stays in place.”
Anderson, who in March sued Rodrigues to get him to move the boat, said he had the new mooring system installed as a temporary solution to what seemed to be an insoluble problem: There is no place to take the vessel and, even if there were, the Coast Guard says it’s too fragile to move.
“I did it because Bruce Estok, the commanding officer of the Seattle District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, came to see me personally and asked me for help,” Anderson said Tuesday.
“Even though I’m trying to get him (Rodrigues) out of here, I figure I’ve got some dirt on my hands because I originally invited the guy here.”
Asked how much installing the new mooring dolphins cost, Anderson said only, “A lot.”
Rodrigues, the Kalakala’s owner, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Anderson said he is working on a permanent solution.
“I have lots of options we’re exploring,” he said. “I’m not sure yet how feasible any of them are. The first thing I had to do was to make it safe and satisfy the Coast Guard. Now that we’ve hopefully done that, we can move on to looking into other possibilities.”
The 276-foot Kalakala, famous for its streamlined, art deco design, provided daily service between Seattle and Bremerton from 1935-67.
Many people have fond memories of the old ferry and believe it should be renovated as a tourist attraction. However, neither Rodrigues nor the boat’s previous owners were able to attract adequate funding.