They do what they can, then move on.
August 25, 2016 3:04 AM   Subscribe

For years, passengers on Washington State ferries have spent their trip working on communal jigsaw puzzles. It is a delightful, adorable thing. Here are some pictures. Here are a few more. The New York Times is on it.
posted by duffell (32 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Lovely. The tables look near-ideal, too: smooth, right size, little ledge - and you can have one to yourself...
posted by Segundus at 3:29 AM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Who takes the puzzles apart? Someone must, or they'd always be completed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:34 AM on August 25, 2016


Nice premise for a romantic story.

"Hey, I started on that one, I just went to get a coffee..."

"Oh, sorry,"

"No, don't go - we can work on it together, I guess..."

What with that and the muted eroticism of the outgoing and ingoing lugs, the plethora of relationship metaphors... I mean, why hasn't this been done?
posted by Segundus at 3:44 AM on August 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


What with that and the muted eroticism of the outgoing and ingoing lugs, the plethora of relationship metaphors... I mean, why hasn't this been done?

And then they get near the end of the puzzle but there's a piece missing, and it becomes a symbol of their whole relationship, and things are falling apart and it's the emotional climax of the film, and then COME ON LET'S WORKSHOP THIS, PEOPLE
posted by duffell at 3:48 AM on August 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


This is really charming! It also reminded me I'm supposed to buy my wife a puzzle soon.

Southwest Airlines' Spirit magazine at least once has published a fictional story* about people who fall in love while living and traveling only in Southwest destinations. I think that's your model. She lives in Friday Harbor making fancy candles to sell to tourists, but has to visit her ailing mother on the mainland on her days off. He lives in Ana Cortes, but travels out to the islands on the weekends. They work on the same puzzles each weekend, but never meet. Eventually, he notices her once cheerful puzzle choices getting sadder, as her mother's condition worsens and resolves to discover the identity of his puzzling companion. One day travelling back from an especially difficult appointment with her mother's doctor, she sits down to an almost complete puzzle of tulips, her favorite flower. The last piece is in an envelope with a love note, and she Knows. The ferry captain who watched their love blossom officiates a wedding at sea, then takes them on a private ferry to their honeymoon, in some other Washington Ferries destination, I've only used the system once and have exhausted the two destinations I know.

*She was from Vermont, so they used the Manchester airport to see her family. An actual line of dialog as best I remember it:
Her: Do you know what my dream is?
Him: To buy a farm and raise fancy milking goats
Her: YES! How did you know?
Him: That's every Vermonter's dream
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:20 AM on August 25, 2016 [19 favorites]


Oh, I love this.

I'm working on a puzzle that I bought last weekend, and it would be a lot better if I had random passers-by spend a few minutes working on it, because I've gotten to the part where I really want to look at the box to figure out how some of it fits together, because I've done all the easy stuff and someone else's eye would be a huge help. (I've managed not to look yet, but the temptation is strong.)
posted by minsies at 5:41 AM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd always kind lf wondered about those as I passed them, like who was leaving puzzles on the ferry. And I suppose if you have half an hour to an hour of time to kill, a puzzle isn't the worst way to do it. It's a pleasant way to meet people, or do the Seattle thing and not talk to anyone. Either way!
posted by gc at 6:04 AM on August 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've gotten to the part where I really want to look at the box to figure out how some of it fits together

Is that considered cheating? I always thought that was just what you did to finish them! I love puzzles, and I would love doing this for twenty minutes on a commute. It might even make me talk to other people.
posted by gladly at 6:13 AM on August 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is awesome, thanks. I love puzzles so much. When I was younger I was home sick from school one day and spent the entire day filling our ping pong table with puzzles. The only bad thing about having a playful kitty is that there would be puzzle pieces scattered to the 4 corners of the world.

I recently took the Seattle - Bainbridge trip a few times and always stayed below just looking out over the water. If I had known I would have loved to have spent a trip or two working on one.
posted by bowmaniac at 6:27 AM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I use to commute on a ferry daily as a teenager. Puzzles seem nice, we had a great community building activity called "teaching young people how to gamble".
posted by bdc34 at 6:54 AM on August 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


gladly, I'm not sure if it's cheating - I'm just trying to avoid doing it so it takes me longer to finish the puzzle!
posted by minsies at 6:58 AM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


The reason I'm in charge of buying my wife's puzzles is that she considers having ever seen the box or even knowing what the puzzle is of cheating, but I think even she acknowledges that as a little extreme. I got her a puzzle of the month club subscription once, and every month, I was in charge of opening the boxes, decanting the pieces into a Ziploc bag, and hiding the box.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:18 AM on August 25, 2016 [15 favorites]


The reason I'm in charge of buying my wife's puzzles is that she considers having ever seen the box or even knowing what the puzzle is of cheating, but I think even she acknowledges that as a little extreme. I got her a puzzle of the month club subscription once, and every month, I was in charge of opening the boxes, decanting the pieces into a Ziploc bag, and hiding the box.

Two things:
  1. Wonderful use of "decanting."
  2. I get that way about books, sometimes. I don't want to read the flap, the blurbs, the synopses, author interviews, nothing. Movies too. My wife thinks I'm a bit of a zealot. She's probably correct.
posted by duffell at 7:24 AM on August 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


The reason I'm in charge of buying my wife's puzzles is that she considers having ever seen the box or even knowing what the puzzle is of cheating

Some of us have Standards.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:24 AM on August 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


This isn't the first time I've been tempted to move to Seattle. Nicely quirky.

I can only do puzzles on vacation thanks to a Bad Kitty, so we always use the cover (from the start) to get it done in a couple of days. I am now so used to using the cover I don't think I could do one without!
posted by clone boulevard at 7:38 AM on August 25, 2016


We saw those puzzles on the ferry to the San Juan Islands last month.

But I'll pivot and tell you a trick we learned. When you want to return to the mainland, go to the line for the ferry just after the last one has left. You want to be first in line. Then you can park your car and walk around or eat for a couple of hours before you have to drive onto the ferry. When you are first in line, you will get the front and center location on the lowest deck and have the absolute best view, all the while sitting in the comfort of your car listening to your favorite music.
posted by BentFranklin at 7:39 AM on August 25, 2016


Wow. Those Standards are very high indeed. I don't think I have that level of fortitude.

Bulgaroktonos, if you want a puzzle already decanted, I can send you the one I'm working on once I've finished it. Let me know, because it's going to the charity shop (with the box!) otherwise.
posted by minsies at 7:57 AM on August 25, 2016


That's great. Few things are as relaxing as doing a puzzle. We usually do one as a family during our summer vacation rental, and last year I got one at Christmas and we worked it during the holiday week. The more puzzles in the world, the better.
posted by Miko at 8:14 AM on August 25, 2016


This is fun, I was doing a puzzle a few days ago on the ferry to Lopez. I didn't know how the puzzles got there -- I'll see if I can donate some to the Southworth/Fauntleroy route sometime (closer to home and I don't think they have puzzles currently).

Some of you sure have higher puzzle standards than me -- I prefer 500 piece puzzles (1000 piece are beyond my reach unless I have a lot of help) and will look at the box for guidance as soon as the pieces themselves aren't giving me enough clues for where to place them (which is to say, a lot on some puzzles, barely at all on others).
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:53 AM on August 25, 2016


I've tried to work some of those puzzles on the ferry to the San Juan Islands, but I get so distracted by what's outside the windows that within a minute or two I inevitably give up and make a bee-line to the outer decks to stand and gape in awe at the marvelousness of the wind and waves and mountains and trees. The puzzles are great for nighttime rides, though.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:57 AM on August 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wonder when this started, I grew up in the area and do not remember puzzles. (not giving out any exact dates though :-)
posted by sammyo at 9:05 AM on August 25, 2016


Yeah I don't remember puzzles on the boats either sammyo. But I do remember how loud the Kalakala was inside, so that kind of dates me!
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:00 AM on August 25, 2016


It's been going on for at least two decades on the inter-island ferries, by my recollection.
posted by tychotesla at 12:42 PM on August 25, 2016


We saw one of these, half-finished, on the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry just last weekend, and wondered what was up--it's the first time I've seen a puzzle on the boat, although I've been an occasional passenger on that route much of my life, and spent a couple of years as a regular commuter in my teens (bdc34, I'm sorry to discover I may have missed out on gambling lessons!) It sounds like this started as more of a San Juans thing and is now spreading to the southern Puget/Salish lines, which is lovely.

The best thing on the ferry is still when the captain comes over the PA and tells you there's a pod of orcas nearby and half the boat rushes over to watch, though.
posted by karayel at 1:17 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just assumed when I saw people working on these puzzles that they had brought their own, which is kind if weird for that length of a ferry ride. Good to know I can work on one myself next time I see them instead of assuming their owner is in the bathroom or on the deck!
posted by mollywas at 1:39 PM on August 25, 2016


They should have them on the ferries in New England.
posted by Miko at 2:38 PM on August 25, 2016


This is the best! My late grandmother was a big puzzle nerd, and always labeled the back of the box with the date when she finished one.

We have a family tradition of always putting a jigsaw puzzle out in a side room during our Thanksgiving gatherings. That way, family members who are feeling a little overwhelmed have a socially-sanctioned way to excuse themselves for some quiet time. Usually my cousin's husband and I put in the most hours, but everyone inevitably comes by and fits together a few pieces. It's simply the best tradition and I can't recommend it enough.
posted by mostly vowels at 3:02 PM on August 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


We should totally import this to the BC Ferries just across the border.
posted by borsboom at 3:27 PM on August 25, 2016


It may be just that I'm terrible at puzzles, but the Seattle to Bainbridge trip would hardly be enough time to finish much more than one of those wretched little Happy Meal marketing-tie-in puzzles. (Also, the scenery is so beautiful...) On a long trip like the Friday Harbor route, on the other hand, you could really dig into something and still take plenty of scenery breaks.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:14 PM on August 25, 2016


The best part is every once in awhile you actually get to finish one! Although most of the time they are missing pieces, it is still so much fun.
posted by gryphonlover at 7:00 PM on August 25, 2016


This is pretty cool. In Alaska there's no tradition of leaving communal puzzles on board. But since some ferry rides can last several days it's not too uncommon for someone to bring a puzzle along and invite others to join.
posted by timelord at 7:21 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't seem to do puzzles until the winter sets in, but I usually have them set up in the winter. They may take a weekend, or a month, depending on what else is going on, or how bad the weather is.

Now I really want to ride the ferry, sight see one way and do a puzzle on the way back.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:57 PM on August 25, 2016


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