While up in the Pacific Northwest the other day looking at boats, I took the Black Ball Ferry Line’s classic, 1950’s-era ship, the Coho, from Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia. If you’re in the area and need to get yourself and your car over to Vancouver Island, I highly recommend stepping aboard.

While there I saw, on the wall of a building near the ferry terminal, the mural below and thought, “Huh?” The boat looked so weirdly retro-futuristic I wondered if it had ever existed. Indeed it had. A little research when I got home revealed that it was the Kalakala, an earlier member of Black Ball fleet. She was built in the mid-1930s on the hull of a previous vessel, the Peralta, whose super structure had been destroyed in a fire. In her day she was apparently one of the highlights of Puget Sound.

Photo: R. M. Calamar

Maybe streamlined modernism wasn’t all it was cracked up to be though. The ship’s design made it impossible to see the bow from the bridge, and round portholes provided less visibility than a fully glazed wheelhouse would have.

Today this flagship of the art deco era can be found forlornly rusting in a Tacoma creek.