Ships Ahoy

Huge ShipsI’m always on the lookout for a good metaphor. Some time ago a humorous list of improbable book titles was circulating the internet. One of those books was How to Avoid Huge Ships, by Captain John W. Trimmer. Privately published, it surely made its author little money, and it quickly became one of those books with hilarious, bogus reviews on Amazon. My family, knowing my predilection for seafaring (at least in imagination) and my love of irony, found an overpriced, used copy for my birthday. I was glad to have it, but wasn’t sure I’d ever read it. I don’t own a boat, and my efforts to live on the coast have always been thwarted. But then, I’m always on the lookout for a good metaphor.

How to Avoid Huge Ships, subtitled I Never Met a Ship I Liked, is one of the most parsimonious books I’ve ever read. Trimmer, a veteran of many years at sea, writes with paternal concern for those who have no apparent sense of reason. Large ships, as most of us with a modicum of physics realize, can’t stop or turn quickly. Yet, in this spellbinding little book, Trimmer reports, and even provides photographic evidence that smaller, private boats often deliberately cut across the bow of these fast-moving juggernauts. As he points out, no license is required to drive a boat, and most small boat pilots have no training. Accidents and fatalities occur. People destroy exorbitantly priced yachts by not moving out of the way of what can truly be called a monster. And like an impatient father, he’s somewhat weary of it. The style is so unpretentious that it might redeem self-publishing in an era when common sense doesn’t interest commercial book houses.

Aware of his own literary limitations, Trimmer bemoans not having an exalted final chapter of great wisdom. He’d already won me over, however, with the simplicity of his sermon. Get out of the way of massive ships. It is a gospel for those with ears to hear. He even points out that the non-seafaring Israelites had respect for ship pilots (citing Ezekiel on Tyre, with decided hints of Melville, intentional or not). I’m not likely to be on a ship soon, but I have survived a horrific hovercraft trip across the English Channel that forever taught me the true respect for the sea. And I know, if I ever find myself again upon the waves, I will consider myself fortunate for having read this wonderful little book.

2 responses to “Ships Ahoy

  1. Robert Charles Brown

    I was crew on a small 40foot ketch in 1970 from Vancouver to Los Angeles, in shipping lanes during last 4 days in sea fog with no radar no GPS yet when a container ship came within a few feet of running us over and our skipper ran on deck yelling at the ship “Sailboats have the right of way, idiot!” Then he agreed with me that we should have someone back on watch at all times and not having afternoon naps in the cabin. That was 12 yrs before Trimmer’s book. I want to contact Trimmer to let him read several stories I have in my new book “Wheels on the Treetops, Keels in the Surf…How I Made it to 25 Alive.. In My Brush With Life”. How can I reach him? Is he still alive? Robert Charles Brown Mission BC Canada

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  2. Dear Mr. Brown, I don’t know Captain Trimmer personally, but he has a Twitter account, and that may be the best way to reach him. His information may be found at this address: https://twitter.com/johnwtrimmer . Thanks for taking the time to read my post!

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