The internet is a strange place. For some reason, maybe it was fate, a sponsored story kept appearing on my Facebook feed. It encouraged me to read comical fake reviews about a book published in 1993.
Its title? How to Avoid Huge Ships by Captain John W. Trimmer. I doubt my friend sponsored this story, since the cheapest this book was going for on Amazon was $150. I later posted my own link encouraging friends to read the reviews, since they were indeed quite funny.
“Read this book before going on vacation and I couldn’t find my cruise liner in the port. Vacation ruined.”
Inspired by this post, I decided I should read this book since the magazine that employs me has two lovely cruises a year where subscribers can mingle with famous and lesser known conservatives, like me.
I haven’t been asked to go yet, but I expect at some point I’ll have to and it will probably be awkward. I imagine my first night at the cruise would involve me sitting down at a table with 11 strangers, and one of them asks me “I wonder which famous person will be dining with us tonight.” Surprise!
So, yes, this book is important in helping me avoid huge ships, mainly cruise-liners. I had to read it. I waited months for an affordable copy to emerge. No such luck. My library didn’t have it either.
While the wolves aren’t at the door, so to speak, I have a wedding to plan and an expense list similar to a cash-strapped second-rate European nation — I wasn’t about to pay hundreds of dollars to find out how to wiggle my way out of the twice-annual cruise on a huge ship.
Lucky for me, Washington, D.C. currently has probably the world’s best public library: The Library of Congress. Having worked in Congress for a while, I was able to pull a few strings to review a copy.
I really wanted to review this book because, as I’ve seen on the internet, and confirmed by Publisher’s Weekly, it has a “deep underground following” and “details about this mysterious book are scant.”
From what I’ve seen in the reviews, I’m pretty sure nobody has actually read it. It’s up to me to lift the veil on this book and share its secrets on huge ship avoidance with you.
The second edition, the one I read, was published in 1993. The first edition in 1982 had a much better title: How to Avoid Huge Ships: Or I Never Met a Ship I Liked.
Despite all the internet fandom, members of Congress and their staffs have apparently found better things to do, since the book was in pristine condition and none of them have appeared to have read it. Their loss. I just got an idea: Maybe we can send Congress out on dinghies in Chesapeake Bay to see who survives, kind of like that show Survivor, but aired on C-SPAN. At least then the sequestration charade would be more entertaining to watch, but I digress.
Captain Trimmer opens the book with a somber dedication:
“To all men, women and children who have been scared out of their wits by a huge ship bearing down on their boat.”
I expect that many of the book’s reviewers come from the midwest, where huge ships are uncommon. That makes for easy comedic fodder, sure, but unless you’ve been out on the choppy water of one of the world’s largest bodies of water with a huge freighter staring you in the face, you wouldn’t know why it’s so scary.
Huge ships are scary. I’m from Cleveland, so I’d know — we have lots of huge ships.
Trimmer’s book is brimming with real-world examples for amateur boaters, especially ones who aren’t salty sea dogs. So, allow me to draw up an example why you should be concerned about big ships:
Imagine you’re driving a Fisher-Price Power Wheels Jeep Wrangler Rubicon down a two lane highway in the fog. You hear a horn, and suddenly one of those WIDE LOAD trucks carrying the Space Shuttle appears out nowhere, headed straight for you at a high rate of speed.
What are you going to do?
It’s precisely why Captain Trimmer wrote this book. Laugh all you want about avoiding huge ships, but boating is actually pretty difficult. Especially for amateurs in small crafts, Trimmer’s target audience.
The book is broken up into eleven short chapters, 83 pages in all. Trimmer, a seasoned seaman who died in 2010 of natural causes (not at the hands of a huge ship) describes the characteristics of huge ships, their maneuvering capabilities and the forces (wheel wash, suction around the stern, and bow wave) generated by huge ships.
He also provides helpful knowledge from his years on the sea regarding environmental forces that affect huge ships, like currents and wind. Wind has a great impact on huge ships, since like sailboats, the side of huge tankers becomes something akin to a huge steel sail that changes the direction of the ship, making it harder to maneuver.
Trimmer’s book is also brimming with maneuvering diagrams and what I would presume is timeless advice on operating a naval vessel in traffic service, which by the looks of it seems pretty harrowing.
This concise and serious book, written warmly as if by a close friend, really does share practical advice from a Merchant Marine sailor who served in three armed conflicts on how to avoid huge ships.
It’s not what the internet expected or hoped it would be, and I’m sure that will disappoint some people. But, if you own a boat and live near large bodies of water with huge ships, I’d recommend reading it. It’s actually quite helpful.