MUKILTEO — The state ferry system’s bouncing new workhorse needs a name.
It won’t be Boaty McBoatface or S.S. ShouldveBeenABridge.
The next addition to the 21-member fleet is a hybrid-electric Olympic class 144-car vessel that will serve the busy Mukilteo-Clinton route. It isn’t slated to sail for about three years. At this point, it’s barely a twinkle in the Legislature’s eyes.
The name game starts early on this big bad baby.
This week will kick off the ferry naming process. A virtual meeting by the Washington State Transportation Commission on Wednesday will discuss how the public can get involved.
There is no prize other than the satisfaction of naming a vessel.
Ian Sterling, Washington State Ferries spokesperson, said the hybrid ferry is the first of possibly five new builds for the aging fleet.
The gestation of a boat takes several years.
“Once the shipyard really starts to build we want time to have the name picked out,” Sterling said.
The name is on both sides of the vessel, on placards at each end, and also life rings and gear.
The new boat will look like its green-and-white cousins, with one exception.
“It won’t have a bunch of diesel smoke coming out of the stack when it’s running on all electric,” Sterling said.
The state operates the largest ferry fleet in the United States. The newest ferry to join the ferry family was the Suquamish in 2018, and mainly serves the Mukilteo-Clinton route.
That ferry’s name means “people of the clear salt water” in the Suquamish Tribe’s traditional language. It cost $122 million to construct, in addition to equipment provided by state ferries, and was made by ship builder Vigor Industrial in Seattle.
Some people know the ferries by name: Puyallup, Tacoma, Wenatchee, Spokane, Walla Walla, Kaleetan, Yakima, Chimacum, Samish, Suquamish, Tokitae, Cathlamet, Chelan, Issaquah, Kitsap, Kittitas, Sealth, Tillikum, Chetzemoka, Kennewick, Salish.
All now have Native American place or tribal names, but there have been exceptions in the past.
The Rhododendron, named for the state flower of Washington, and known affectionately as “The Rhody,” was put into service in Washington in the early 195os and did a long stint on the Mukilteo-Clinton route. The Rhody retired 10 years ago.
The Evergreen State is also retired. Its sister boat, Tillikum, is 62, and still plugging away on the San Juan Islands inter-island route.
Names must be non‐offensive and meet ethical standards. Names honoring or commemorating individuals will be considered. But consider this before you want to honor your favorite rich aunt. The individual must be deceased for at least 20 years, must have enduring fame and have played a significant historical role in the region or state.
Suggestions must include background and make a case for the name and establish and identify widespread support.
Proposals undergo extensive scrutiny getting public feedback.
The chosen name gets a “Resolution” charter with a bunch of “Whereas-es” to make it official.
The state won’t make the mistakes of the Brits in Canada and across the pond.
BC Ferries launched a contest in 2015 asking the public to submit names for its three new vessels in a fleet with names such as Spirit and Queen.
Social media suggestions included Queen of Infinite Fare Increases, S.S. ShouldveBeenABridge and Spirit of Good Luck Getting Home to Your Family On a Long Weekend.
Even the three prizes of $500 in ferry travel were scoffed at.
In the end, the chosen names were Salish Orca, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven.
A United Kingdom government agency let the internet suggest a name for a $287 million polar research ship in 2016. People disregarded the more dignified names suggested by the Natural Environment Research Council.
The runaway favorite: Boaty McBoatface.
More like government eggface.
The ship was named the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
Andrea Brown: email@example.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.