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Help Name The New STJ-STT Ferry

The Department of Public Works opened a contest Friday to name V.I. Transit’s new ferry. (Photo by Mat Probasco)

The new boat soon to be ferrying passengers between St. John and St. Thomas is missing something important and a Source reader could have the solution. The Department of Public Works opened a contest Friday to name V.I. Transit’s new 300-passenger, 100-foot ferry.

Rules for the contest, which ends March 22, weren’t yet clear but Commissioner Derek Gabriel promised to clue Virgin Islanders in next week. In the meantime, it’s time to get creative. Submissions can be sent to DPWPIO@DPW.VI.GOV, however, read the next paragraph, at least, before doing so.

The U.S. Coast Guard has some rules around boat naming. The name can only use letters from the Latin alphabet, meaning no emojis; it may use Arabic (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) or Roman (I, II, III, IV, etc.) numerals; the name must be 33 characters or less; it cannot look or sound like words that indicate the need for help at sea, such SOS; and names also absolutely cannot look like or sound like words that are obscene, indecent, profane, or include racial and ethnic slurs — thank goodness.

Those rules do leave room for some terrible suggestions, like naming the ferry The Seaplane or The New Four-Lane Bridge, which would lead to unending confusion. “Are you taking The New Four-Lane Bridge to Cruz Bay?”

How judging will work for Gabriel’s Galleon — not his suggestion — was also yet unclear. Such rules are really important, as the British government learned when they let the popular vote name their new scientific research ship in 2016. Boaty McBoatface was soon followed by Australia’s Ferry McFerryface, complete with a voting scandal.

The name of the ferry, ultimately, has about as much meaning as the name of a race horse or a show dog except that countless commuters and tourists will be climbing on and off of it for decades, with any luck.

That said, would you book a smooth 20-minute ride on Ferry McFerryface or would you wait for one of the older ferries — Cruz Bay 1 and Red Hook 1?

Mariners of old used to name their ships after women, so technically plain Jane is a viable option but maybe not all that much fun. The territory has been on a tear renaming roads and public places for prominent Virgin Islanders alive and dead. It’s a noble and important effort but lacks the zany potential a wide-open naming field offers.

Naming boats is nothing new to Virgin Islanders and nautical visitors. The territory’s docks spill over with bad puns, slangy inside jokes, homages to sea deities, song titles, and bird names. The U.S. and British Virgin Islands have had a few great ferry names, including the awesome-to-say Bomba Charger and the very-aptly named When ferry that may or may not take passengers to Jost Van Dyke at the proposed time.

The Pillsbury Sound is named for U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Pillsbury, an important 19th and early 20th Century geographer and first recipient of the West Indies Campaign Medal for his service in the Spanish-American War. The Pillsbury ferry could be the Pillsbury Express or the Pillsbury Explorer. Admiral Pillsbury died soon after the end of World War I. The ferry could incorporate the term for American soldiers in that conflict and be called the Pillsbury Doughboy. Or maybe just Doughboy to avoid trademark trouble with the litigious General Mills Company.

How about Going To Come Back? There And Back Again? Soon Come?

We could have a play on cruise ship naming: VITRAN of the Seas? The Norwegian Pelican? The Sunburned Princess? Carnival Cruise Lime? Or bad puns and plays on words: Seafari, Wata Ride, Open SeaTing, Salty Language, etc. Some inside jokes could be Constitutional Convention — because it comes and goes only to come and go again — or WAPA Power for the same reason. An overt appeal for federal funding could have the ferry named Biden My Time while acknowledging the scientifically-challenged conspiracy theorists with a prayer for calm weather could have the boat named The Flat Sea Society.

Another option would be to hold a naming contest every three years or so, coinciding with required drydock maintenance. The Bobbing Bananaquit could be renamed the Quelbe Cruiser by 2027, and in 2030 be called Better Than Swimming, or 4 Tough Miles, or It’s St. John Not St. John’s.

The possibilities are nearly endless. Have an idea? Send it to DPWPIO@DPW.VI.GOV.

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