Help Name A State Ferry Boat

Washington State ferry and Samish tribal boat. Image from the book “The Journey Home” by Richard Walker.

The Washington State Transportation Commission is encouraging Washingtonians to vote for one of seven names for a new ferry. The Commission intends to select two names at its November 13 meeting and submit the names to Washington State Ferries by early December. To participate, sign up here at the Commission’s website.

Washington State has 23 vessels in its fleet and many have names reflecting the state’s tribal heritage. The most recently-named vessels – Chetzemoka, Salish and Kennewick – are in keeping with that tradition.View the full list of Washington ferryboat names at the WSDOT website.

The Commission is responsible for naming ferries and setting ferry fares. It followed these guidelines for assessing ferry name proposals:

  • Names should carry statewide significance and represent our state’s image and culture.
  • Specifically, names should represent such things as state-adopted symbols, tribal names, names of bodies of water, geographic locations, cities, counties, or relate to nautical heritage.
  • Consideration will be given to the consistency with existing WSF fleet names.
  • Names should have broad familiarity, are non‐offensive, and meet ethical standards.
  • Names with commercial overtones or names honoring or commemorating individuals should be avoided, but will be considered upon careful review.

Seven ferry name proposals were submitted to the Commission. Background on some of the names are available from the Commission website (I couldn’t find background on the other names):

1. Cowlitz: This tribe provided key assistance with pioneer transportation and commercial activities in what some historians refer to as the Cowlitz Corridor which linked the Columbia River valley with South Puget Sound communities long before Washington Territory was established. The Washington Territorial Legislature honored the tribe by naming one of our earliest counties for them. This county includes a broad flood plain located at the mouth of the Cowlitz River at the Columbia River that was a swamp in pre-European settlement days which some authorities believe was the source for the meaning of the name Cowlitz, which is “capturing medicine spirit.”

2. Samish: the “giving people” in proto-Salish origins. The Samish Indian Nation has held a deep-rooted respect for the traditions of sharing with its neighbors. The Tribe’s historic area ranges from the mountain tops of the Cascades westerly along the hills, woodlands, and river deltas, arriving at the far western shores of the San Juan Islands.

3. Tokitae: a Coast Salish greeting meaning “Nice day, pretty colors”, and is also the name given to an orca captured at Penn Cove, near Keystone, in 1970. Tokitae was brought to a marine park in Miami 40 years ago, where she was put into service as an entertainer, and named Lolita. She is the last survivor of the 45 Southern Resident orcas captured in WA state during the capture era of the 1960s and 70s. Such captures were later banned in Washington State waters in 1976.

4. Ivar Haglund: A Seattle iconic character and folk singer who opened the city’s first aquarium at Pier 54 in 1938 along with a fish-and-chips stand, according to

5. Sammamish

6. Hoquiam

7. Muckleshoot


Meanwhile, the WSDOT Ferries Division is conducting public outreach meetings in ferry communities over the coming month.  The purpose is “to provide information, answer questions and hear from customers on a variety of issues, including the upcoming legislative session, proposed service reductions on some routes, new ferry construction and liquefied natural gas as a potential fuel for ferries.”

  • Vashon Island
    6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7
    McMurray Middle School Multi-Purpose Room
    9329 S.W. Cemetery Road
  • Southworth – Port Orchard
    6-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8
    Harper Church
    10384 Sedgwick Road S.E.
    Port Orchard
  • Bremerton
    6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13
    Kitsap Conference Center Oyster Room
    100 Washington Ave.
  • Bainbridge Island
    6-8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26
    Bainbridge Island Art Museum
    100 Ravine Lane, Suite 210
  • Anacortes
    6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27
    Anacortes City Hall
    Council Chambers
    904 Sixth St.
  • Whidbey Island
    6-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29
    Trinity Lutheran Church
    18341 State Route 525
  • Kingston
    6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4
    Kingston Community Center
    Kingston Room
    11212 State Hwy 104
  • San Juan Islands
    5-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6
    San Juan County Council Chambers
    55 Second St. (corner of Second and Reed streets)
    Friday Harbor
  • Port Townsend
    Noon Monday, Dec. 10
    Elks Lodge
    555 Otto St.
    Joint meeting with Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce