Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 18, 2021
State of Maine departs on winter training cruise
Maine Maritime Academy’s Training Ship State of Maine is assisted away from the dock by a modern tractor tug named Fournier Boys, one of two Belfast tugs helping her get underway on a 37-day training cruise. Ports of call include Charleston, S.C., Frederiksted, St. Croix, Port Canaveral, Fla., and home again to Castine. Fair winds and following seas!
The Training Ship State of Maine departed Castine on Tuesday, November 16, for the third training cruise of the year, according to a press release. Winter cruises were once commonplace at Maine Maritime Academy. However, over time, the college’s training evolutions were condensed to allow for a single summer voyage to locations in North America, the Caribbean and Europe.
Recent disruptions caused by the pandemic required a reimagination of cadets’ training schedules. The current cruise is the third this calendar year. Two additional cruises were completed in the spring and summer and collectively allowed most unlimited-license students to recapture training and sea time lost in 2020.
“The advent of the COVID pandemic essentially caused three class years to miss their respective summer sea experiences in 2020,” said John Cashman, Commandant of Midshipmen, in the release. “Adjustments to the academic calendar, three cruises and two cadet shipping evolutions allowed Maine Maritime to recapture that lost summer. The unique schedule is only possible due to the dedication of the ship’s professional crew, MMA’s faculty, staff, and the students who adapted to compressed schedules, significantly increased sea time, and disruptions to their lives to get us back on track.
“We are excited to wrap up this final cruise of 2021 and for the opportunities it brings for our students to complete their training and earn their degrees and licenses.”
On the 16th, 146 MMA students, along with 50 faculty and crew, set sail for their first stop in Charleston, S.C. They will be joined by 30 cadets and staff from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The trip’s itinerary includes a transit through the Caribbean with additional port calls in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida before returning to Maine in December.
Under the direction of Captain Gordon MacArthur, master of the vessel, the educational cruise will include opportunities for students to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom in a unique shipboard environment. For some, this is the second half of their first sea term. For others, it is the final sea-going experience of their Maine Maritime education. For the visiting Cadets from USMMA, this will be their first sea-going experience, one the school hopes will be meaningful and fun.
The 500-foot, 16,000-ton Training Ship State of Maine was originally commissioned as the USNS Tanner and served as a Navy oceanographic research vessel before being converted in 1997 to accommodate MMA’s training needs. The fourth vessel to bear the name “State of Maine,” the ship is a modern, technologically advanced training vessel, according to the release.
“Students will perform at-sea navigation and engine room watches, perform routine and non-routine maintenance on various equipment and receive training on various topics from meteorology to hydraulics to basic use of hand tools,” explained MacArthur. “The opportunity for college students to apply classroom learning and develop skills such as leadership, industrial safety and job planning is what sets us apart from other institutions of higher learning.”
Friends, family and fans are invited to follow the ship’s journey through the cruise blog at cruise.mainemaritime.edu. The ship is scheduled to return to Castine on December 19. The training cruise officially ends on the afternoon of December 21.