The world’s first streamlined vessel

Posted February 6, 2013 at 12:00 am

By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
Northeast News
February 6, 2013

6-PC 2-6-13.tif

Once the pride of the Black Ball Line, the Ferry Kalakala was, and quite frankly, still is the world’s first streamlined ferry. The Kalakala was originally built as the Ferry Peralta in 1926. An arson fire in May of 1933, however, spelled the end of the Peralta as it was once known. The ship’s hull was largely intact after the blaze, and in October 1933 she was sold to the Puget Sound Navigation Company for the princely sum of $6,500.

Captain Alexander Peabody commissioned Boeing Engineer Louis Proctor to design something modern and streamlined, something in line with the Art Deco style that was all the rage in the 1930s. The result was the world’s first streamlined vessel, the Kalakala, the Chinook term for flying bird.

On July 3,1935, the Kalakala made her maiden voyage to a ticker tape parade and much fanfare. Carrying 500 invited guests of the Puget Sound Navigation Company, the Kalakala steamed on her maiden voyage from Seattle to Bremerton, Wash. More than 8,000 people greeted the ferry at the dock at 4 p.m. The next day, the Kalakala began daily service between Bremerton and Seattle, making six trips daily. A moonlight cruise was offered, too, complete with dinner, dancing and live music by Joe Bowen and the Flying Birds.

The Kalakala maintained daily service through October 1967 when she completed her last trip as one of Washington’s longest running ferry services. She was sold to a crab processing facility in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Over the next 20 or so years, she was sold from one processing company to the next. At one point, the old vessel was towed to Kodiak, Alaska, floated into a sand bed and beached until 1992 when proceedings began to buy the ferry from the state of Alaska and restore her, which were undertaken by a local sculptor and commercial fisherman. In 1998, the Kalakala was re-floated and towed back to Seattle for restoration. Sadly, however, proposal after proposal have failed to produce the proper funding to restore the hulking, Art Deco stainless steel vessel. In November of 2012 she was sold at auction to a Tacoma businessman who is entertaining ideas for the ship, including either scrapping or restoration.

The promotional postcard was sent on Feb. 25, 1945, to Mr. & Mrs. J.A. Eakins of Ottumwa, Iowa. The personal message reads: “Gene and I just crossed to Bremerton on this ferry. We are staying at a tourist cabin near the ocean in Aberdeen. Have seen Grandpa and Leslie. Plan to see Fritz too. Received you’re your letter yesterday, sure glad to hear from you. Hope you are fine. We are. Will be here a week. Love, Margie.”