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Tom, Dick or Harry: Naming King County's new water taxis

The county's new mosquito fleet will run between downtown, West Seattle and Vashon Island. What should we call them?

The King County Ferry District is inviting the public to suggest and vote on names for the system’s two new water taxis that will run between West Seattle, Vashon Island, and downtown. (You can see their design here, the West Seattle blog has the scoop here.)

You can submit your suggestions online until Friday, July 18; at the end of the month, the public will be able to vote for the finalists.

The names need to be historically appropriate, not offensive and not for a living person (that's bad luck for the boat's namesake if they ride on it in their lifetime, apparently). Oh, and two words preferred. I suppose they want to save paint.

The character of the vessel itself can be taken into account. (These new taxis resemble modern athletic shoes, so the county could make some money by selling the naming rights to Nike!)

Seriously, I think this is an opportunity to balance a bias of the Washington state ferry system. They’ve effectively decided to give their new boats only Native American names. Don't expect any more Rhododendrons, Vashons, or Evergreen States. (The last of which just retired after 60 years of service, by the way.)

While I understand why that's a nice emphasis, it limits the opportunities for public commemoration of other aspects of our maritime legacy on Puget Sound. It passes by a huge hunk of heritage. The county’s new “Mosquito Fleet” could help with the balance.

So, I have two suggestions. One I feel strongly about.

There is no better name for a Vashon ferry than the "Betty MacDonald," the famed Northwest bestselling author of "The Egg and I" and other books that turned our region into a national sensation, and Hollywood movie franchise (the Ma and Pa Kettle films).  She also wrote the classic children’s series, Miss Piggle Wiggle.

More importantly, MacDonald (1908-1958) was a brilliant, funny writer who was way ahead of her time on the feminism front. And, for a time, she lived on Vashon and commuted to work in Seattle. That part of her life resulted in a great read, "Onions in the Stew," a book that any modern reader fantasizing about life on an island can relate to. It also documents the difficulties of juggling family, marriage, kids, work, neighbors and writing. My full case for a "Betty MacDonald" boat can be found here, where I pitched it as a name for one of the new state ferries.

The second suggestion I’m running up the flagpole is "New York Alki." As many people know, the first name given to the settlement on Alki Point in West Seattle was "New York," by one of the community's most ambitious founders, C.C. Terry, who opened a trading post there and announced the city's intention to become as big as its namesake.

The name brought some derision from other settlements on the Sound, most of whom were way ahead of our new hamlet. Olympia, Steilacoom, Port Townsend all had better cases to make for being the new New York. "Alki" was humorously amended to New York to indicate a little more realism, Alki being the Chinook jargon word for "by and by," which also was the Washington Territory's motto, as it is still the state's.

"New York Alki" goes beyond two words, I know, except that New York is one word, really. I mean, would we say, "New" or just "York?" It's a single entity. And the name fits because it marks a couple of things. One is Seattle's commitment to an urban future from the very beginning; its embrace of out-sized ambition; its desire to be the great port of the Pacific; and, still, our desire to get things like transportation right by having, for example, water taxis so people can leave their cars at home, or do without.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 7:41 a.m. Inappropriate

How about, Constantines Dream, Useless and Money Pit

Cameron

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

The Ivar Haglund and the Emmett Watson

talisker

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 10:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Titanic Folly I and II

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

I could go for Ivar, but absolutely yes -- Betty MacDonald. Off to cast my vote...

sandik

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 7:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Ivar or J.P. Patches. Or even Gertrude.

A Gertrude ferry really makes me smile.

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 11:33 a.m. Inappropriate

Ivar Haglund and the WSF should have named one of the new ones. Emmett Watson for sure and Betty is good also.

mdwebbhi

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 2:08 p.m. Inappropriate

J.P. Patches I, II & III

jmrolls

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 4:34 p.m. Inappropriate

I thought Seattle's original name was Duwumps.

gabowker

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 7:18 p.m. Inappropriate

I am tired of Indian names for so many things. If we truly honored the original natives, we wouldn't have sectioned them off on reservations. Naming things seem like an embarassingly pathetic way of trying to claim we 'honor' the tribes.

It's like the old question from the 1960's where people would ask "how many black people do you actually know and socialize with?" That question helped people think and even caused changes.

Separate just seems wrong and weird. And I realize the transaction is done.

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 7:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Betty would be nice, but personally I will vote for the person most responsible for keeping the passenger boats afloat during the states major cutbacks a few years ago. Without her tireless efforts for the passenger boats there would be no water taxi today. And so we are clear, she was a true mover and shaker and helped the islands and the community in many far reaching ways, i.e. far more than just keeping the boats afloat. My vote is for the 'Sally Fox'. (Sally passed away a few years ago but is fondly remembered by many friends, family and acquaintances.)
Thanks for your consideration,

ge

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 7:57 p.m. Inappropriate

How about "The Bubbleator"?

small_d

Posted Wed, Jul 16, 12:52 p.m. Inappropriate

Hee hee hee.

Oh look, another "Peter, Paul and Mary" special on KCTS.

Simon

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 4:37 a.m. Inappropriate

Hey Knute, how about showing the total taxpayer subsidies for these ferries? You can through in the operating deficits as well as the capital expenses too if you would like. This exercise seems a bit like naming a tunnel boring machine in downtown.

Cameron

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 4:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Remember this from the original take over?

http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/government-takeover-of-west-seattle-ferry-triples-/nDPSK/

Now throw in some King County overhead, dry dock facilities, new ferries and inland boatmans mandatory pay scale. Next thing you know you have a really expensive foot ferry that doesn't run when the weather is bad.

Cameron

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 9:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Okay, name one the Piggle, the other the Wiggle...

If they add a third, name it the Egg.

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 4:44 p.m. Inappropriate

I love JP Patches, but he gets too much of the glory. How about the Boreson and the McCune?

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 9:18 p.m. Inappropriate

-dbreneman is right...Boreson, McCune and Patches. Give him one of those "good idea thingies."

jmrolls

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