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The art of travel: The Kalakala

She is rusting away in a dock in Tacoma now, but once upon a time the Kalakala was renowned as the first aerodynamic art deco ferry in the world.

Image: The Kalakala.
Image: The Kalakala.
View original image View dithered image

The Washington State Ferry, built on the hull of another ship that burned down, plied the waters of Puget Sound from 1935 until 1967.

The Kalakala’s five decks had room for 2,000 passengers. The ferry boasted her own eight-piece orchestra, whose music was piped throughout the ship for dancing. About 30 million passengers rode the ship during her lifetime in Seattle. The Kalakala looked very different from her contemporaries. The streamlined design was built for speed. The vessel was powered by a 3,000 horsepower diesel engine and reached a maximum velocity of 18 knots (33 km/h or 21 mph).

After her retirement the ferry served as a shrimp and crab processing ship in Alaska for more than 30 years. In 1998 it was bought by a group of artists and moved to Seattle. The money to restore her was never found, however, and the vessel - criticised as an eyesore - was auctioned, sold again and moved several times. The present owner said earlier this year that the ship might be converted to a ferry running on wind and solar power.

Image and information taken from these websites (there are more pictures to be found) : 
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6


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Lovely boat! sad is that was not maintained and now is a crock.

Bill Vincent

What a fabulous bit of history. Sad that she’s descended into such disrepair, but I guess you can’t save everything, eh?


Intersting, Kalakala means Fishfish in Estonian.

Golanv Igvyi

A once beautiful ship. sad she is falling apart. Would love to see her restored and used again. Green would be just that much better. Golanv Igvyi First Raven Mi’kmaq and Cherokee nations


I found a photograph of this ferry in my dad’s WWII photos and we didn’t know what it was until today, what a sad story.

MaryEllen Davidson

I had been aboard the Kalakala in my youth. This brought tears to my eyes. She was so beautiful.

Greenwood Bob

The Kalakala’s days are numbered, and the numbers are probably pretty small. As of this writing, the ship is listing pretty badly, the foundation that was trying to restore her has been dissolved and her owner is looking for a buyer. That is, of course, assuming he can keep her afloat. If he can’t, the State of Washington will be forced to seize the ship and scrap it to prevent it from contaminating the waterway. Yet another Seattle landmark apparently destroyed by arrogance and greed.


I volunteer on the Kalakala and she is being repainted… the wheel house as well as the Double Horseshoe cafe will be completed this winter!!!