Sad State Of The S.S.
By James Donahue
Until recently she was
but a rusted ruin, pieces of iron exposed in the shifting sand and muck that once buried the hull at Ocean Shores,
Washington. Older folks in the area remembered her as the S. S. Catala, a small
229-foot coastal steamer that once carried freight and passengers from Vancouver, British Columbia, to southeast Alaska
for the Union Steamship Co.
Built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1925, the vessel
spent its life on the Canadian coast until 1958 when it was sold to new owners and used for a time as a fish buying ship.
When the World’s Fair came to Seattle, the vessel was refurbished as a floating hotel
and moved to the Seattle waterfront in 1962. The engines were
removed to make room for a theater.
When the World’s
Fair was over, the vessel was towed California and used
as a floating restaurant. In 1963 the floating hull was brought north again to Damon
Point State Park at Ocean Shores, moored at a causeway, and used
as a floating “boatel” for charter fishermen. The vessel offered 52 staterooms, a restaurant and lounge. Electricity
and telephone service was extended to the ship and a bridge and roadway provided easy access to a parking lot near her bow.
It was a good operation
for everybody involved until the day of the big storm. On New Year’s Day 1965, a gale packing 70 mile-an-hour winds
and high seas out of the southwest, coupled with an unusually high tide pounded the shoreline. Yards of sand were swept from
under the Catala’s starboard side, leaving the vessel grounded and tilted at an extreme angle to starboard. The owners
could not refloat the hull so it became a derelict.
The owners salvaged all
they could from the wreck. Thieves sacked the wreck, and vandals set it on fire. People climbed on it, partied on it, and
wrote on it, local residents recall. Then, after a young woman hurt herself on the wreck, there was a lawsuit. After that
wreckers came to cut as much of the wreck apart as possible and haul it away.
But a lot of the old
ship was by then buried under the sand. After a few years it was so completely covered that no trace of the Catala was seen.
In recent years, however,
nature reversed what it did to the Catala. The remains of the wreck began reappearing more each year as the sands were shifted
by wind and waves. Then in April, 2006, someone poked a stick in an opening in the hull and discovered an oily sludge inside.
The Washington Department
of Ecology and other natural resource agencies took action to prevent a chance of an oil spill from the wreck. The remains
of the old hull were completely removed from the site.
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