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Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 22, 2014
T/S State of Maine responds to sinking vessel in the North Atlantic

T/S State of Maine responds to at-sea distress calls

Maine Maritime Academy training vessel, the T/S State of Maine, shown as it leaves the Castine, Maine harbor in early May for its annual training cruise, responded to distress calls in the North Atlantic Ocean on May 15, 2104.

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by Anne Berleant

Maine Maritime Academy students training on the T/S State of Maine responded to a maritime emergency on May 15 when the Coast Guard contacted the ship, asking for help in responding to a small vessel in distress. The State of Maine was on course in the North Atlantic Ocean heading for Trieste, Italy, when it was asked to change course to assist a 42-foot French sailing vessel taking on water.

The State of Maine was the closest ship in the area at the time the U.S. Coast Guard received the distress call. The USCG contacted the Maine Maritime Academy at about 8:30 a.m. “in an effort to communicate with the ship,” and President Brennan notified State of Maine Captain Eadie of the USCG request, according to Commandant Nate Gandy’s report on the Maine Maritime Academy Cruise Facebook page.

“This meant that we would need to turn back into the seas we had just left and would not be able to get to the location of the beacon for about 14 hours….As we turned into the seas it was obvious that we could not safely maintain our original 14 knots so we slowed to about 11 to reduce the pounding.”

The three sailors, all in their 70s, first transferred to a life raft dropped by a C-130 sent by Boston RCC, Gandy reported further, and the State of Maine prepared for a medical response. Finally:

“We have just received word that the fishing vessel Alberto has made it to the scene and was able to pick up the three people that were on the stricken sailboat. We will be altering course to the East and proceeding on course for Trieste.”

Only one day later, on May 16, Boston RCC sent a second request to the ship to investigate a new emergency beacon 500 nautical miles east, but the distance, coupled with the ship’s limited speed, resulted in a determination “that we were not viable to render assistance.”

The ship’s response to the first request for assistance, made in rough seas, was “good training for the students as they had to continuously adjust to an ever-changing environment,” Gandy wrote. “It reinforces the bond that links all sailors at sea. When you are in a position to offer assistance, you do, despite the fact that it may not be comfortable or it may make you late for your next port of call.”

The State of Maine, helmed by Captain Leslie Eadie III, is expected to port at Trieste on May 26, and then proceed to Reykjavik, Iceland.