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Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Forecast of high winds in strait puts voyage of Kalakala on hold again

By Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporter

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Jim Reid, right, who has wanted the Kalakala gone almost since the day it arrived on his property five years ago, yells into his cellphone during a call to his lawyer after it was decided that the ferry would not be starting its planned journey to Neah Bay yesterday.
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The forlorn ferry Kalakala failed again to leave Lake Union yesterday, so there were no spectacular photographs to be taken, no moments of victory — but high drama nonetheless.

It included Kalakala owner Steve Rodrigues jumping back and forth from ferry to shore early in the morning, excitedly discussing the rebirth of his rusting old boat as he pulled up lines that had tied it to shore.

But by noon, after the much-anticipated move was called off, his Kalalaka about to be homeless, a glum Rodrigues could only say, "We are going to have a problem."

It included Jim Reid, an owner of the property where the boat has been tied for five years, furiously venting and swearing at the Coast Guard on his cellphone. "Get this ... damn boat off our property today!"

The tale of the Kalakala took more dramatic turns yesterday, its on-again departure from Lake Union to Neah Bay once again put on hold — this time after tugboat captains who were going to tow it from Shilshole Bay to Neah Bay looked at a weather forecast of 25-to 35-knot winds in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. By midmorning, they decided they couldn't take the chance.

A spokesman for the Coast Guard said that as part of a tow plan it had approved, the tug captains and Rodrigues had to agree the weather was good enough to make the trip safely to the Olympic Peninsula.

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Terry Roberson, a marine mechanic volunteer from Everett, stands by yesterday as the first tug arrives to push the Kalakala out of Lake Union. Plans to move the ferry were later postponed again because of an unfavorable weather forecast.
Christian Lint, one of the tug captains, said that if the weather improves as expected by the weekend, the move could be on again, possibly Sunday.

Rodrigues has been trying to move the ferry since December but a variety of problems have arisen: The bilge needed to be cleaned of oil but the pump broke. Two tugs, not just one, were needed to guide the ferry. Now the weather has stopped him.

"I have no love for this vessel," Reid said. "It's a blight to me, and it's costing me money."

For five years, the 276-foot Kalakala has been moored on Reid's property, first under the ownership of a foundation established by Seattle sculptor Peter Bevis, who dreamed of raising millions and restoring it. But the foundation went bankrupt and Rodrigues bought the ferry at an auction last fall for $136,560. He, too, hopes to raise millions of dollars to restore the ferry, which he would turn into a floating museum and restaurant.

Reid claims he's received no rent for seven months, and the dilapidated ferry has prevented him from developing his land.

The ferry was to begin its journey at 8:15 yesterday morning. The plan was for two tugs to maneuver it into the Ballard Locks by 9:30. Two other tugs were to take over, guiding it to Neah Bay.

But when the move was called off, Reid's frustration exploded — in front of dozens of onlookers. He at first refused to let the Kalakala tie up again on his property, then changed his mind when the Coast Guard, in a fax to his lawyer, cited regulations that could be interpreted to mean he'd be responsible if the boat drifted and caused damage.

By then, the Kalakala had drifted a few feet and was pushed back by Lint's tugboat.

"This sure is an interesting little soap opera we've got," said Lint, turning to notice that the curious and the media had drifted away. Earlier, more than 100 onlookers had stopped by to gawk and take pictures.

There was Mark Chandler, 38, a Seattle electrical salesman. "In a city with as much heritage as we have, you'd think we could come up with a few bucks to fix it. She's kind like of an aging dowager," he said.

There were two brothers, Jay Charles, 67, of Redmond, and Pat Charles, 62, of Mercer Island. They remembered the Kalakala's heyday some six decades ago.

"It was a class act," said Jay, remembering taking the ferry during World War II as a kid on its Seattle-Bremerton run. He remembered the huge clamshell doors that closed once cars were loaded, giving the boat a rounded nose, and with its silver color, a 1940s spaceship look.

Two dozen 5-year-olds from a Montessori school in Lake Forest Park showed up with teacher Bill Shanks. Shanks had told them about the Kalakala's history as a stylish ferry that fell into disrepair and was abandoned in a Kodiak, Alaska, mudflat.

The kids asked if the boat was going to be pulled out. No, they were told. Not today.

"I guess we can come back another day," said Shanks. "I wanted to have the kids say their goodbyes."

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com


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