The Tacoma (left) and Walla Walla (right) depart Colman Dock for Bainbridge Island and Bremerton.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes several months, many a proposal, public input, and a mighty authority to name a state ferry. The Washington State Transportation Commission, which is responsible for naming infrastructure such as state highways and bridges, christens ferries with monikers that have cultural or regional significance—tribal names or bodies of waters—but also avoid commercial overtones and anything offensive. Nope, Boaty McBoatface won’t cut it here.

Kwa-Di Tabil Class

748 passengers, 64 vehicles

Chetzemoka

Aka “The Chetzy,” named for a S’Klallam chief from the 1850s. Built in 2010.

Kennewick

Native Sahaptin dialect for “winter paradise; winter haven; grassy place; grassy slope.” Built in 2011.

Salish

Indigenous peoples from the Pacific Northwest coast. Built in 2011.

Evergreen State Class

1,061 passengers, 87 vehicles

Tillikum

Chinook dialect for “friends; relatives.” Built in 1959, and rebuilt in 1994.

Issaquah Class

1,200 passengers, 124 vehicles

Cathlamet

From the Kathlamet tribe: the Chinook word calamet meaning “stone.” Built in 1981, rebuilt in 1993.

Chelan

From Tsill-ane, Wenatchi dialect for “deep water.” Built in 1981, rebuilt in 2005.

Issaquah

Lushootseed dialect for “snake; little river; place of the Squak People.” Built in 1999, rebuilt in 1989.

Kitsap

Lushootseed for the name of a Suquamish chief from the 1800s. Built in 1980, rebuilt in 1992.

Kittitas

A Central Washington tribe, part of the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation. Built in 1980, rebuilt in 1990.

Sealth

Named for Duwamish tribe’s chief Sealth (or Seattle). Built in 1982.

Olympic Class

1,500 passengers, 144 vehicles

Chimacum

Chemakum tribe’s gathering place, now the present-day town near Port Townsend. Built in 2017.

Samish

Samish for “giving people.” Built in 2015.

Suquamish

Southern Coast Salish Lushootseed for “people of the clear salt water.” Built in 2018.

Tokitae

Coast Salish dialect for “nice day; pretty colors.” Built in 2014.

Super Class

1,868–2,000 passengers, 144 vehicles

Elwha

Chinook dialect for “elk.” Built in 1967, rebuilt in 1991.

Hyak

Chinook dialect for “fast; speedy.” Built in 1967.

Kaleetan

“Arrow” in Chinook dialect. Built in 1967, rebuilt in 1999.

Yakima

Yakama dialect meaning “to become peopled; black bears; runaway; people of the narrow river.” Built in 1967, rebuilt in 2000.

Jumbo Class

2,000 passengers, 188 vehicles

Spokane

“Children of the sun” in Salishan language. Built in 1972, rebuilt in 2004.

Walla Walla

A Nez Perce name that roughly translates to “place of many waters.” Built in 1973, rebuilt in 2003.

Jumbo Mark II Class

2,499 passengers, 202 vehicles

Puyallup

Lushootseed for “generous people.” Built in 1999.

Tacoma

“Snowy mountain” in Southern Lushootseed. Built in 1997.

Wenatchee

Named after the Wenatchi tribe; it’s a Sahaptin word for “river flowing from canyon.” Built in 1998.

Editor's Note: This article was updated May 6, 2019 to reflect that the Salish ferry was built in 2011 (not 1959), the Kaleetan was rebuilt in 1999 (not 2005), and the Yakima was rebuilt in 2000 (not 2005).

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