Flying Bird


One of my earliest memories as a boy growing up on the shores of Puget Sound was a ride on the Kalakala or “Flying Bird” in the language of the native Chinook. Given the less elegant nick-name of Silver Slug by the skeptical locals, she must have been quite a site on the cold waters of the Sound when Seattle was still near to her birth as a frontier logging town. By the time I set foot on her decks she was far removed from her glory days and would soon suffer the undignified fate of being beached near Kodiak, Alaska and utilized as a salmon cannery for the remainder of her years, but she was the first boat I had ever been on that rightly could be called a ship and I was awestruck by her streamlined Art Deco lines. The hull had a reputation as being cursed since becoming stuck on the ways at launch and she didn’t disappoint over the decades, being involved in a number of mishaps and collisions, usually at the expense of other craft and docks due to her Merrimack like hull design.

Rescued from her Alaskan tomb a few years ago and towed back to Seattle with much civic fanfare, there was talk of restoration and renewal but it seems the curse holds. Lack of money and interest eventually doomed the Flying Bird to a backwater berth in an industrial district, crumbling a little further with each passing winter and now without even the modest blue collar work she ably performed in her later years to sustain a sense of pride in what she once was, she fades away, mostly forgotten.

I remember.


2 responses to “Flying Bird

  1. Arthur M. Skolnik FAIA

    I was the last Executive Director of the Kalakala Foundation in Seattle. We struggled to save and restore her, but no one would grant us a permanent moorage, which was necessary to receive financing for her total restoration (then estimated at $12 million). The Foundation went bankrupt and she was sadly auctioned off, purchased by the present owner and now continues to suffer a long slow deterioration in Tacoma, WA.

    We must have hope that somehow, someone will pull her back from her dismal situation, and start the process of returning the Kalakala to Puget Sound waters.

    I look down on her from my Tacoma home, waiting for her rebirth.

    Arthur M. Skolnik FAIA

  2. I am familiar with your preservation work Arthur. I too look forward to her restoration one day.

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