row2k Features
The Naming of Shells
March 28, 2001
Rob Colburn

These splendid ships, each with her grace, her glory
Her memory of old song or comrade's story...
Earth will not see such ships as these again."

-- John Masefield

So, your crew has just been given a brand new shell; it sits gleaming on the rack in your boathouse, and the donor has given you total latitude in what to name it. Something inspiring, something to raise your own crew's spirits (or strike terror into the hearts of the opposition). To spark your creativity, here is a sampling of existing crew shell names, a kind of "honor roll of ships."

First, there is the shell's pre-christening name, the secret "working title" usually known only to its first crew. Names such as "Spanky" (as in brand spanking new), "The Sex Craft" (don't ask), or my sentimental favorite "The Green X" (many moons ago she carried my crew and me to a gold medal). I once received an email from the coxswain of a new shell describing taking "Milly" out for her maiden voyage, and it took me a moment to figure out that the reference was to their new, unchristened Millennium. Some crew programs insist that it is bad luck to row a shell which has not yet been named, (thus the secret name aspect), but the only real taboo concerning names is not to rename a shell, even if you buy one secondhand and it arrives in your boathouse with something like "Sink or Swim" emblazoned on the bow.

Intimidation and inspiration names: "Four Horsemen," "The Lyons Paw," "Fe Woman," (hint, check your chemical table) "Relentless," "Anarchy," (not a characteristic one supposes would make for smooth rowing), "Apocalypse," "Valkyrie," "The Eagle's Dock," "The Flying Bear" (bears might not be avionically inclined generally, but this one -- flagship of the UCal fleet-- does indeed fly), "Femmes Fatales," "J'ai Faim," "Vivace," "The Dark Horse," and "Carpe Diem."

Plays on words, literary allusions, and movie titles: "Half Shell" (as in, "clams on the...?") "Quadzilla" (three guesses as to how she's rigged), " "Rosebud," "Venus Rising," (Botticelli or Cellini?) "Rime" (of the Ancient Mariner Rowing Club), "Four of a Kind," "Four Play," "Millennium Falcon," and the "Hidden Catch." Cross-language names such as "Oh Pair" (hint, try it in French), or the "Spuyten Duyvil" which is Dutch sailors' slang for the "spitting devil," a turbulent and tide-wracked body of water north of New Amsterdam. "Das Capital," "Capital Offense," "Capital Gain" and their similarly-named sister-ships all hail from the Capital Rowing Club. The "NJ Transit," looked particularly sharp on the water because she was distinctively painted in the livery of the local commuter trains. In homage to Agent 007, there is an English women's 8+ named (may God root me to the spot if I am lying) "Octopussy."

Mythological and Poetic names: "Thor's Hammer" (a comment on technique, perhaps?), "The Druid Spirit" (another sentimental favorite of mine), "Nemesis," "Athena," "Artemis," "Prometheus," "Iliad," "Odyssey," "Centaur," and "Griffin," while "Dawn Treader" "Aurora," "First Light," and "Morning Glory" evoke the beauty of early morning practices.

The naming of shells, to paraphrase T. S. Elliot, "is a difficult matter;" but it can also give your program a wide scope for creativity and personality.

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