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Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kalakala's ship hasn't come in; sale is in works

Seattle Times staff reporter

Failing to find money or moorage, the Kalakala Foundation is taking steps to sell the dilapidated art-deco ferry.

Friday, the foundation's Web site advertised it was soliciting letters of intent and requests for proposal, due Jan. 31. But the deadline, board members said, is more of an internal one than an absolute.

Kalakala Foundation Executive Director Art Skolnik "is still working feverishly," said David Ruble, former vice president of the Kalakala Foundation.

"I am enthusiastic. I am not giving up," Skolnik said. "Sometimes I think I'm trying to market the plague."

The Kalakala, built during the Depression, 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 Seattle in 1998 and has been at North Lake Union since March 1999. Its lease expired Dec. 31.

Skolnik, hired by the foundation in June, has worked unsuccessfully to build local support to restore the ferry so it could be used as an event venue in Seattle.

A respected local preservationist, Skolnik has seen more than a few potential deals slip away. Seattle Parks and Recreation officials said permanent moorage at the Maritime Heritage Center was not in the park's master plan.

A slip at Pier 66 on Elliott Bay was nixed because Port of Seattle officials were uncertain of future revenues as a tourist draw.

Even a short-term stay in nearby Tacoma didn't happen because the ferry couldn't get an affordable tow to the South Sound. "The bottom line is, we haven't been able to raise the money," said Ruble.

The foundation has $67,000 but owes about $200,000 to vendors and about $1 million to its founder-turned-creditor, Peter Bevis. Bevis and other supporters spent $1 million hoisting the vessel out of the mud and towing it down the coast to Puget Sound.

"The timing wasn't good and the result was unfortunate," said Bob Sitting, executive director of the Seattle Maritime Heritage Foundation.

"I think Art (Skolnik) did everything that he knew how to do, but it turned out it was probably too little, too late."

Sarah Anne Wright: swright@seattletimes.com

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