Image courtesy of Matt Carrig | An artist’s rendition of the proposed art installation “Ferries Over Winslow.”

Up, in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…the Bainbridge ferry

  • Fri Sep 8th, 2017 9:15am
  • News

Nautical puns abound, and around here what else could they be about but ferries.

“The ferry boats — ferry bots — excuse me,” said local artist Matt Carrig.

Carrig is at it again. This time, it’s not a tower he’s aiming to build, and it’s not on the Sakai property, either.

“This one is much more realistic,” Carrig admitted, “and I think [it] will be far less polarizing and controversial. It’s gonna be a lot cheaper.”

No joke: Carrig wants to put in a public art installation downtown called “Ferries Over Winslow.”

True to the name, this intended art piece would quite literally put ferries over main street. Don’t panic though, they aren’t actual ferries, just scale models. These scale model boats would be robotic, and go back and forth over the street on wires from pole to pole, representing real-time crossing progress of the ferries.

Carrig gained a measure of local fame when he introduced a proposal last year for an ambitious viewing tower for Sakai Park that could have been Bainbridge’s answer to Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. Despite some encouragement and support from islanders, the tall tower idea never made it to the short list of possible park improvements.

Ferries Over Winlsow, as well, has hit a patch of rough water. When Carrig first presented the idea, Arts & Humanities Bainbridge didn’t warm to it.

The project didn’t sound serious enough, he said, but added: “It was admittedly not too serious. It was kitsch and hokey and all that. That’s one of the merits of it; that it’s playful and light.”

The commission did, however, come around to the idea, Carrig said, and will assist as the proposal moves forward.

What’s envisioned is a continuous aerial display over Winlsow Way. On one side, one pole would be representative of Bainbridge Island, with an evergreen tree on top, and the other pole would be representative of Seattle, supporting a miniature Space Needle. Two model boats would silently cross on the separate wires stretching over the street, cars and pedestrians below. The installation would show both boat runs in time with the actual ferries between the island and the city, Carrig said.

Recently at one of the meetings for this project, “the crew” (as Carrig likes to say) was able to get a prototype up and running.

“It works and hooks to the internet in real time and shows where the — in this case the Tacoma — was in real time with just a spring representing the boat. It worked perfectly,” he recalled. “We left it hooked up for a couple hours during one of our meetings and sure enough, it went back and forth.”

The ferry boats above Winlsow Way would move based on wireless updates every 15 seconds from the Washington State Department of Transportation and its Vessel Watch program.

When the boats are anchored at either end, (quite literally anchored, as there would be anchors where the boats rest in “port”) lights would flash or turn red depending on the status of the boat.

The anchor lights wouldn’t be the only ones, either. Starting in the evening, the small ferries would light up from the inside, just like the real ones. Not only would they have cabin lights, but traditional red and green bow lights, as well. These lights would switch ends depending on the direction of the ferries.

For more information about sailing schedules and the crossings, Carrig said passersby could check the “console” at the southern mast. This would include the speed of the ferries, their direction, along with the departing and arrival times.

This proposed installation would be next to Town & Country, right in the middle of downtown.

The estimated overall costs of the project, including material costs, construction equipment, and donations to the nonprofit organizations helping with the project, would be about $47,000.

“We are not going to request any funding from the city to either erect it or maintain it going forward,” Carrig said.

Instead, a nonprofit corporation would be formed to finance the art project. Called Ferries Over Winslow, it would fundraise for the project through donations from individuals and businesses. The group would also make products inspired by its namesake to raise money.

Having already gained some support from Arts & Humanities Bainbridge, Carrig said, he now hopes to get the city’s sign-off of support. However, before any public art proposal can pull into that port, it must first receive the approval from Bainbridge’s Public Arts Committee.

Carrig hopes the Public Arts Committee will approve the proposal, and let it continue on for further consideration.

He noted it may take time, though, to get everyone aboard the ferry idea.

“The main molasses is the city’s notoriously slow deliberation, which is understandable. You have to make prudent, careful decisions,” Carrig said.

He hopes to have the boats sailing over Winslow Way at the latest by July 4, 2018. Carrig does guess that if the team worked fast, they could finish the project in just a couple months.

Carrig’s crew will collaborate with the Spartronics, Bainbridge High’s robotics team, he said, as well as the Japanese American Community and Clark Construction. Currently, the crew meets at BARN every other week. Carrig is working to formally get BARN on board with the project.

The crew is comprised of local professionals, from artists to programmers and engineers to entrepreneurs, and all are excited about the prospects of the project. Working with the crew, Spartronics will help with their skill set of robotics knowledge. The Japanese American Community has also offered to help by creating a traditional lantern for lighting on the Bainbridge mast. Clark Construction will also pitch in by donating management services along with the preliminary consultation already completed.

“It’s a little hazy what the status is right now,” Carrig admits. “It’s a complicated issue as to whether this project falls within public art or not.”

Whichever way the project goes, it’s gone far since Carrig was first inspired by Bainbridge’s boats.

This past May, Carrig was sitting on the ferry and had the epiphany. “The gears of my brain got turning, [I] had a few ‘ah-ha’ moments,” he recalled.

Since then, the idea has taken shape. Carrig is optimistic, and he noted that some islanders are supportive and some have said the art project will actually provide a public service.

“It has great momentum and the feedback thus far has been so positive from the community, from friends. From my family — that doesn’t really count,” Carrig quipped.

“It’s pretty humbling for me personally to see how far it’s come.”