SEATTLE — The ferry Kalakala, the dilapidated Art Deco relic saved from a rusty doom in Alaska by a debt-ridden local artist, has been ordered to find new moorage.
The silvery 276-foot vessel has been at its present site at the north end of Lake Union since March 1999, but recent aerial photos revealed it is in violation — projecting 50 feet into a Ship Canal navigational zone.
It must be moved by Oct. 23 or it faces a $75-a-day fine from the city Department of Design, Construction and Land Use.
Peter Bevis, the obsessed Kalakala Foundation president who returned the ferry to Seattle, said the fine is a frustrating mixed signal from the city. Mayor Paul Schell turned out personally to welcome the vessel on its arrival in 1998.
"We’ve got our sails up and we’re being pushed backwards," Bevis said. "Every month we are handicapped. I’m amazed we are staying alive."
City officials are not unsympathetic.
"It’s tough," said department spokesman Alan Justad. "I know they’ve been working diligently to try to find a home that will work in terms of regulations."
Bevis has seen worse in his mission to salvage the Kalakala.
"I worked in Kodiak. I had 10,000 voices telling me it was impossible," he said. ’ "It will never float. You’ll never make it home.’ Our lives were on the line then.
"So what’s this?" he said of the navigation-zone violation. "A letter from the city, a piece of paper."
Bevis jokes about lopping off the 50 feet of ferry at issue. But he also said he plans to ask the Maritime Heritage Foundation if he can move the Kalakala there, at the south end of Lake Union. He intends to look into earlier offers of moorage in Port Townsend or Port Angeles. And he is considering a move to Elliott Bay piers near Pioneer Square and the foundation offices.
The foundation has long sought a location where the vessel can be dry-docked, inspected and repaired.
Launched in 1935, the Kalakala ferried passengers between Bremerton and Seattle, and later between Port Angeles and Victoria, British Columbia. It was sold in 1967 to an Alaska company, which parked it on the mudflats of Kodiak and processed fish in its belly.
In 1988, Bevis learned about it while working as a commercial fisherman in Alaska, and vowed to bring the boat back to Seattle.
When he triumphantly returned the Kalakala to Seattle 10 years later, he was nearly $1 million in debt. The foundation says the vessel needs more than $10 million in restoration, not to mention $700,000 for dry docking and emergency hull repair.
In August, the city council accepted a $285,000 federal grant for the Kalakala, though the foundation would have to raise $700,000 in matching funds before any of the money is dispersed.
The foundation takes in and spends about $10,000 a month, about half going to moorage and insurance. It is slowly paying off about $65,000 still owed to a marine surveyor who helped remove it from the Alaska mud and the tug company that towed it back, Bevis said.
Recently, a San Francisco preservation group approached Bevis about the Kalakala’s inclusion in a proposed exhibit on Treasure Island, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay.
But Bevis wants the ferry to stay in the Northwest.
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