The dumbest Smart Car

They may be good for the environment, but they aren't exactly seaworthy
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A Smart Car: dumb for ferries?

They may be good for the environment, but they aren't exactly seaworthy

You may have heard about the new sport in Holland: Smart Car tipping. Youths are having a great time tossing the diminutive eco-vehicles into Amsterdam's canals. Is it green-backlash, plain old jackassery, or could there be another reason? I was tempted to do some tipping myself over a recent weekend.

One of the most annoying things that happens on the ferries these days is some folks' car alarms go off on the car deck. If it keeps happening, ferry personnel will ask the car owner over the loudspeaker to get their butt down on the car deck to disarm the alarm. Some car alarms have an ear-splitting sound, as annoying as the screams of a toddler in mid-meltdown, or like having a smoke alarm strapped to your ear. It seems to happen to fussy cars that are too sensitive to the motions of the boat.

On a recent ride from Bainbridge Island, we weren't even out of Eagle Harbor on calm seas when a bright yellow Smart Car began screaming for attention. It would sound its siren, then stop. Then start again. Then stop. The car was so light (Smart Cars only weigh about 1,800 pounds empty) that every little vibration, every change in course seemed to set it off. Those of us seeking the shade and quiet of the car deck on a hot, touristy day were treated to a dozen or so ear-splitting alarm cycles until the owner was called to shut up his wheels. Even then, it went off a time or two. The owner had to stay with the car and turn it off every time it was set off. The owners were lucky no Dutch teens were on board.

As I wondered how many miles per gallon it would get as it sank to the bottom of Puget Sound, I remembered how easily it could be done. Years ago on a busy San Juan Islands summer ferry run, I saw the deck crew pick up a VW Bug and turn it sideways on the end of the car deck to fit it on a crowded boat. Locals ought to prepare their cars to be ferry-ready, or risk having vigilante passengers help them walk the plank.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.