TACOMA -- Eight long years and half a million dollars later, Steve Rodrigues and his small crew of volunteers are keeping their dream afloat...barely.
"We have this inside encouragement to never give up," Steve said, standing beside the historic ferry Kalakala.
Rodrigues bought the Kalakala in 2003 when it sat as a blight on Seattle's Lake Union. When people complained about the eyesore, he moved it to Neah Bay where it was unceremoniously booted out a short time later. It finally found a home well out of public view in Tacoma. Over the summer, though, the foundering ferry started sinking. Rodrigues fixed the hull and righted the ship, but now has lost his lease. The Coast Guard wants him to move too, saying the rusty old hulk could go down in the Hylebos Waterway.
"It would potentially disrupt between $8 and $23 million in commerce per month and the employment of 1,000 to 1,300 people," said USCG Commander Chris Woodley.
If Rodrigues doesn't move the Kalakala by January 1, he faces more than $32,000 in fines per day. That is forcing him to consider something he hoped he'd never have to -- slapping a for sale sign on his beloved boat.
"It's up for sale for $1," said Rodrigues.
But there are strings, or perhaps more appropriately, an anchor attached. For that dollar, you promise to restore the Kalakala and not sell it for scrap. If you have a bit more money, Rodrigues has a bit more of a plan. He's looking for private investors with deep pockets.
"One million dollars will save this ship forever," he said.
For that million dollars, Rodrigues said he has a long term home for the Kalakala, a plan and a partnership that will return the boat to its former glory. Other proposals range from $5 million to almost $50 million.
But right now, the most precious commodity is time. Sink or swim for the Kalakala.
Says Rodrigues, "People, we have a treasure. Let's save it. Let's protect it."
You can find out more about Rodrigues's proposals to save the Kalakala by visiting http://www.kalakala.org/