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Chetzemoka goes to sea; Whidbey ferry name rejected

The Chetzemoka is undergoing sea trials in Puget Sound this week. This picture was taken earlier in the year when a tug pushed it into an Everett boatyard for finishing touches. It will begin service on the Keystone to Port Towsend route on Aug. 29.  - Photo courtesy of Washington State Ferries
The Chetzemoka is undergoing sea trials in Puget Sound this week. This picture was taken earlier in the year when a tug pushed it into an Everett boatyard for finishing touches. It will begin service on the Keystone to Port Towsend route on Aug. 29.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Washington State Ferries

As one new ferry hits the water for tests, two yet-to-be-built ferries have received their names.

The 64-car Chetzemoka, Washington State Ferries’ newest vessel, started its sea trials Tuesday and will continue through Thursday. The Kwa-di Tabil class ferry will sail throughout Puget Sound. The vessel’s main contractor, Todd Pacific Shipyards, is required to conduct trials for the United States Coast Guard and the Washington State Department of Transportation before the ferry system accepts delivery, according to a news release from Washington State Ferries.

A crew from Todd Pacific will man the boat during the sea trials, which must be conducted away from marine traffic so the demonstrations can take place without interference.

Washington State Ferries crews will begin training on the Chetzemoka later in July. The Chetzemoka is slated to serve the Port Townsend to Keystone ferry route starting Aug. 29. The day will be marked with celebrations on Whidbey Island and Port Townsend. It will be the first time in nearly three years that a permanent vessel will serve the ferry route.

Meanwhile, a Whidbey Island-based nonprofit’s suggested name for a new ferry was rejected last week.

Rather, the Washington State Transportation Commission named the two soon-to-be built ferries the Salish and the Kennewick.

“We’re disappointed that they didn’t choose Tokitae,” said Susan Berta of the Orca Network, which submitted the name for consideration. Tokitae is a Coast Salish greeting meaning “nice day, pretty colors.” It’s also the original name of Lolita, an orca captured in Penn Cove 40 years ago and currently performing at a marine park in Miami.

Berta, however, was pleased with the name Salish, which has a connection to the Puget Sound area. The name Salish was submitted by the San Juan County Council and refers to the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest and the geographical name of the inland sea comprising Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia. The seven-member commission unanimously approved the resolution.

However, she said she was “mystified” at the Kennewick name and questioned its connection to the Puget Sound. The name was submitted by the city of Kennewick, which is one of the Tri-Cities located in the southeastern part of the state. It has several native meanings including “winter paradise,” “winter haven,” and “grassy slope.” The commission approved the resolution by a 6 to 1 vote.

Berta was particularly surprised Kennewick was chosen considering the results of a rider survey the transportation commission conducted showed that Salish and Tokitae were the two top choices.

The Salish, the second 64-car Kwa-di Tabil class ferry to be built, will provide service on the Coupeville (formerly Keystone) to Port Townsend route during the busy summer months starting in 2011. When that happens, service on the beleaguered ferry route will be fully restored. Riders haven’t enjoyed that since 2007 when the Steel Electric ferries were in service.

The new ferry names came as local leaders successfully lobbied the transportation commission to rename the Keystone terminal the Coupeville terminal.

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