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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

February 3, 2012 at 10:42 PM

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Kalakala's charm not yet rusted out

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Sketched Jan. 30, 2012

rodrigues-m.jpgIt may be just a shell of what it once was, the most iconic ferry ever to crisscross Elliott Bay, but the 1930s-era Kalakala hasn't lost all of its character. Not yet.

This week I endured a two-hour paddle -- and a humiliating plunge into Commencement Bay -- to get an up-close look at the historic ferry, which has been moored in an industrial waterway in Tacoma since 2004. Despite the decay and rust, the streamlined vessel -- the only ferry of its kind -- retains its elegant Art Deco styling and much of its personality. I think it could make a great exhibit space along the future viaduct-free Seattle waterfront.

Mark Greengo, a kayaker who generously took a day off work to lead me to the Kalakala, has another idea. If the boat, whose condition is being monitored by the Coast Guard, can't be restored, perhaps it could be sunk and made into an underwater park for divers.

Owner Steve Rodrigues, who's been living in a nearby mobile home for the past five months making improvements and discouraging vandals, is committed to returning the Kalakala to Seattle as a symbol of the city's history. "It's a truly magnificent vessel that should never have gotten to this point," said Rodrigues.

The 60-year-old civil engineer (shown right) is still looking for a buyer willing to preserve the Kalakala. A reported sale for $1 last December didn't go through. Rodrigues said it was under the condition that the buyer promised to save the ferry from the scrap yard, and that promise "never happened."

Web Extra

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It was a relief to know that my main sketchbook was in Greengo's kayak when I lost control of mine. We were on the way back to our launching spot at 5012 Marine View Drive, just about 100 feet from the shoreline, when my kayak tipped over and I took my first plunge ever into the Puget Sound. A smaller sketchbook that I kept with me, however, suffered some water damage because I failed to seal the plastic bag where I carried it. Above you can see the drawings that were in that sketchbook, a 6" x 8" Stillman and Birn wirebound with heavy weight paper.

As for myself, well, I was a bit shocked. But I barely got wet thanks to the dry-suit Greengo had brought for me. Being a kayak instructor, he also knew exactly what to do to help me back onto my boat in very little time. Back on land, I did a sketch of him that I will be posting next week. The guy deserves his own blog entry, don't you think?

What has drawn your attention around Seattle lately? Send me your suggestions of interesting places and people to sketch via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. Have a great weekend!


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I'm normally all for preserving pieces of our local history - especially something as... MORE
It's easy to come up with a proposal that uses someone else's money and real estate... MORE
let us not forget it is a barge with a superstructure built upon the barge. I like... MORE

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