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Steamship Authority: Sorry, we’re not going to name our new ferries after ‘Jaws’

Thousands of people submitted names to the agency for a public contest to come up with monikers for two new vessels. The suggestions ranged from movie references to titles like “New Kid on the Dock.”

The Steamship Authority ferry arrived at Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard after departing Woods Hole last summer.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Steamship Authority isn’t going to need a “Bigger Boat.”

At least, that’s the guidance the agency that operates ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket gave to its board this month, when it urged officials to steer clear of the many “Jaws”-based submissions it received for a public contest to name its newest vessels.

In August, the authority invited people to help them come up with monikers for two new ferries that will soon shuttle passengers and cargo between the mainland and the islands.

Despite repeated suggestions like “Jaws,” “Chief Brody,”“Sam Quint,” or “Amity,” the ferry operator asked its advisory panel, the Port Council, to take those names off the table.

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“Staff appreciates, but ultimately must sadly recommend rejecting” any and all mentions of the 1975 blockbuster movie that was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard, Steamship officials wrote in a letter.

The same went for the bevy of pun-laden suggestions that also washed up in their inbox, including “Botalicious,” “Whitey Boatger,” and “New Kid on the Dock.”

In giving the internet’s brightest minds the rare opportunity to come up with the names, the authority sweetened the deal with the promise of a $250 gift card for travel or parking.

The bait seemed to work.

“We got, to use a complicated maritime term, a metric [expletive] ton of responses,” said Sean Driscoll, a spokesman for the ferry service.

Roughly 8,200 people participated, he said, sending in more than 9,200 submissions through a special website setup by the Steamship Authority.

Ultimately, the Port Council followed the ferry operator’s advice. It selected 10 options for the Steamship Authority Board to choose from at its September 27 meeting, all of which are tributes to local landmarks or Indigenous tribes:

  • Noepe
  • Wampanoag
  • Aquinnah
  • Moshup
  • Menemsha
  • Madaket
  • Siasconset
  • New Bedford
  • Hyannis
  • Monomoy

“Noepe,” the Wampanoag name for Martha’s Vineyard, was the most popular choice, with 295 submissions. “Wampanoag” itself came second, with 162 submissions, and “Aquinnah” was third with 143.

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While the Steamship Authority was pleased by the popularity of the naming competition, as well as how creative the ideas were, Driscoll said some guardrails were needed for the sake of tradition, safety, and, well, good taste.

For example, the Steamship Authority recommended against picking “East Chop” and “West Chop”— both popular choices — to avoid confusing rescuers in the event of an emergency.

There’s precedent when it comes to handing the keys over to the Internet to name a public-facing vessel: In a similar call-out in 2016, a deluge of support for calling a British research ship “Boaty McBoatface” went viral online.

That name resurfaced for the Martha’s Vineyard contest, with 42 participants saying they wanted to see a “Boaty McBoatface” — or a variation thereof — shipping people to the islands. Fifteen people suggested “Ferry McFerryface,” and seven chose “Steamy McSteamface.”

Humorous? Sure. Appropriate for posterity? Probably not, Driscoll said.

“A quirky name might be fun for a few years, but in 40 years, people will be wondering what we were up to,” he said. “These boats are going to outlast Twitter.”

Indeed, since they began service in 1818, the ferries have held dignified titles. The current fleet of seven ships includes “Eagle,” “Gay Head,” “Governor,” “Island Home,” “Iyanough,” “Katama,” and “Martha’s Vineyard.”

As for the full list of submissions that didn’t make the cut, which was reviewed by the Globe, dignity was perhaps a lesser priority.

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Peppered throughout 112 pages of rejected ideas were a truly painful number of seafaring puns, such as “Seas the Day,” “Live Sea or Die,” “Ferry Godmother,” “Ferry Poppins,” “Resting Beach Face,” “Ships N Giggles,” and “This Is Not a Krill.”

Some contributors drew inspiration from oceanic literature and history — including tributes to tales that didn’t end so well — like “Moby Dick” and “Titanic.”

Others sought to honor notable people and animals from the region. “David McCullough,” a nod to the famed Harvard historian and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient who died in August, received nine submissions. “Pinkletink,” island slang for a species of small frog, received 10.

Meanwhile, some people thought it would be fun to name the boats as a pair, with suggestions like “Popeye” and “Olive Oyl,” or “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum.”

Others seemed to be wantonly tempting fate, tossing out names like “Unsinkable 2” and “Never Cancelled.” There were also references to ocean-themed cartoons, including Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” and “Steamship Willy,” presumably a reference to Disney’s “Steamboat Willie.”

And, of course, many submissions skillfully employed the Boston accent: “Use Ya Blinkah!,” “Davy Jones Lockah,” and “Yachta Yachta Cape Coddah.”

For anyone hoping their zany or clever ideas might still grace the hull of a ferry for decades to come, that ship hasn’t sailed just yet. After all, Driscoll said, the 10 ideas submitted to the Steamship Authority Board by the council are just suggestions.

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“They can ultimately choose whatever names they want,” he said. “The odds are perilously close to zero that they’re going to pick something related to ‘Jaws’ or ‘Boaty McBoatface.’ But the world is a funny place. Never say never.”

The HOS Lode Star was one of two ships that was purchased by the Steamship Authority.Steamship Authority

Spencer Buell can be reached at spencer.buell@globe.com. Follow him @SpencerBuell.