Wednesday, May 11, 2016



Some thoughts on the Motor Vessel Kalakala ("Bird",  in the Northwest Native American trade language Chinuk Wawa)

I watched the Kalakala dock in Seattle  in 1960 after her run from Bremerton.  I was a 13 year old kid aboard the Winslow ferry on the north side of Coleman dock with my father and my brother. We were about to sail to Bainbridge Island on our way to Port Angeles, where my father was to be the first general manager of radio station KAPY,  which was under construction. Our ferry was stodgy compared to  the Kalakala.

In this photo, you can see the Winslow ferry, with the Kalakala reversing engines as she approaches Coleman Dock.  It's just as I remember her--the skyline, too.

Historic pictures from a proud past of service.

Engine room.

I forgot about the Kalakala until I moved back to the Northwest in 1997.  I heard that she was ignominiously being used as a fish processing facility in Kodiak, Alaska.  

In 1998, while living on Bainbridge Island,  I heard that the Kalakala was returning to the Puget Sound for restoration.  Serendipitously, my son, a Coast Guardsman and crew member of the U.S.C.G.C. Chase--which happened to be in Kodiak--took this photograph as the Kalakala was being towed to Seattle.

I was happy to sponsor the return.

Fundraising envelope.

I plotted the longitude and latitude of my sponsorship--it looks like I got her under way!

A photograph taken as the Kalakaka approaches Seattle.

The Kalakala spent time in Lake Union, but she became a costly eyesore. There must have been cheers at the news that the Makah tribe would provide anchorage in Neah Bay, and to there she was towed.  Again, she outlived her welcome and damaged the tribe's pier to boot.  In 2004, she had a new owner,  and the Kalakala was towed to Tacoma to live out her days. I relate.

I  was a Gold Charter Member of Kalakala.Org, established by the last owner.

Here are screenshots of the Kalakala's voyage (tow) from Neah Bay to Tacoma.

I took a few pictures of the Kalakala as it entered Commencement Bay.

Passing Brown's Point.

Kalakala's final home in Hylebos Waterway.

I had hopes for the Kalakala, but I never saw her up close. The nearest I got was  on 4th of July in 2005, I believe, when the owner, along with the daughter of the architect who designed the vessel (that's her in the red hat) held a meet and greet. I realized that afternoon  that the Kalakala was a lost cause.

When the Kalakala began to list, her fate was sealed.

Mercifully, the Kalakala was righted and towed to the scrapyard in Tacoma and disappeared.

Pictures of the Kalakala's final voyage. These images do her justice.


Some Kalakala art.

A mural in Port Angeles.

The closed-bow design made her suitable for the open water route north across the Straight of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, British Columbia. The Kalakala made that run between 1955 and 1959.

The art deco  Kalakala  arriving at Coleman dock from Bremerton in 1960.