As one of the last trips I took as part of our Florida vacation, I went and visited the American Victory Ship in Tampa. You see, what had happened was that my parents recently retired and in a classic move went on down to Florida. Figuring my dad would need some hobbies, I got him a membership to this boat. Victory Ships are apparently like Liberty Ships except I guess just the next class down the line. The SS American Victory is in Tampa and I figured he could help out onboard or something. It’s apparently too far away for him to do that, but since I had gotten him the membership he decided to take me to see it.
The ship itself is pretty good! I mean look, I’ve seen a cargo ship before. I get it. The bunkrooms like, you know, exist or whatever. You can climb on up and get a pretty good look at the harbor, and admire the cranes and whatnot. As these sorts of places are wont to do, the boat had a bit of a museum right when you walked in and that was pretty nice. The neatest part was a full-scale replica of a German mini-sub, which reminded me of a North Korean mini-sub I saw once in South Korea. They also had other, smaller ship models, including one of the USS Saucy, which is a fantastic name for a ship.
One thing I appreciated about the ship is that they have tried hard to think through giving you a good tour. There is a proscribed path that walks you around, and they had a few regularly-spaced air-conditioned rooms to give you a break from the heat. This being COVID times, they also had handwashing stations, which more often than not were just the regular sinks that the ship had anyways, and I found that amusing.
The most exciting part of any given ship is of course the engineroom, but unfortunately you could only really glimpse this one. Since the ship is a working ship in that it goes out every once in a while, I guess the Coast Guard forbids them from letting the riff raff into the engineroom. You could walk across the top though and peer down and get a bit of vertigo from the fear of dropping one’s phone right into the bowels of the bilge. For those interested, however, they do have a video of an engineroom walkthrough, and that’s pretty neat!
After taking a lap around the boat and seeing the sights we had to kill some time, so we hung out for a bit with the volunteer running the booth. He was pretty nice! We all swapped stories the way that disparate Navy veterans typically do, which is tell various stories unrelated to each other (except that they happened on boats) because we don’t really have a solid clue what the other one is talking about (I can’t tell if the guy we hung out with is the same guy from the engineroom walkthrough video, or whether all these veteran volunteer types just start to look alike). Then, you know, we left. So yeah a good time. Anyways, if you’re in Tampa, it might be worth checking the ship out, especially if you’ve never seen one before. Just remember to hydrate! And also please enjoy this picture of a nautical steering wheel lock: