Sunday, January 5, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kalakala seeks tow to Tacoma for a short stay

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Tacoma shipbuilder has offered the Kalakala short-term shelter if the aging, art-deco ferry can hitch a ride with a tug.

J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding on Tacoma's Thea Foss Waterway offered the ferry free, temporary moorage through the end of the month. The shipbuilder is making dock repairs and has space for the historic, steel-hulled ship.

"We offered a place because they were in dire straits," said Martinac project manager Jonathan Platt.

Getting the boat to the South Sound could prove costly. One tugboat company said a tow would cost $25,000, using two tractor tugs pulling for the better part of a day.

"This could be a one-way trip," said Art Skolnik, executive director of the Kalakala Foundation. "If we go down there, we are pretty much assuming that the boat will be for sale."

The moorage offer couldn't have come at a better time for the Kalakala, which has overstayed its Dec. 31 deadline at its North Lake Union moorage and is in need of a minimum of $750,000 in exterior repairs.

The Kalakala Foundation has tried to rally funds and enthusiasm to keep the ferry in Seattle but has not found any viable support.

Skolnik said the foundation's board would likely put the ferry up for sale as early as next week.

The Kalakala, built during the Depression atop the hull of a burned steamship, had its maiden voyage July 3, 1935. After its 1967 retirement, the ferry was converted to a seafood-processing plant and later abandoned in Alaska.

It was hauled to the Seattle waterfront in 1998 and has been at Lake Union since March 1999.

Martinac, which has put in a bid to build private ferries for the state, is not interested in buying the ship but wanted to work to preserve it.

"The Kalakala is an important link to the past of the ferry system," said Platt. "She was a very well-known and appreciated ferry."

But this idea hasn't caught on in Seattle, where some have called the ferry an eyesore.

Skolnik, an ardent local preservationist, criticized the Seattle community. "I'm just very upset and disappointed in my community," said Skolnik. "This is not a Russian submarine. This is not the Queen Elizabeth. This is our boat; millions of people rode on it."

Sarah Anne Wright: 206-464-2752 or


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