Maine Maritime Academy Training Ship State of Maine Departs Castine
CASTINE – Maine Maritime Academy students, officers, faculty, and crew departed Castine on Monday, April 19, aboard the Training Ship State of Maine (TSSOM) as part of the college’s summer sea term. This cruise is the first of three training evolutions for TSSOM with a second cruise starting in July and a third in November. The first cruise (Cruise-A) will include transit along the eastern coast of the United States. The ship’s itinerary includes port calls in Boston, Massachusetts; Norfolk, Virginia; and New York, New York. The original itinerary included a stop in Port Canaveral but that was canceled so the ship could avoid strong storms along the East Coast. The remaining schedule and ports are subject to change.
Under the direction of Captain Gordon MacArthur, master of the Training Ship State of Maine, the educational cruise began in port on Friday, April 16 with the students moving aboard. The crew boarded earlier in the week for pre-sailing preparation. Captain MacArthur, of Castine, Maine, joined the crew at Maine Maritime Academy earlier this spring. With over thirty years of experience in the maritime field, MacArthur served most recently as a Senior Dynamic Positioning Officer for Diamond Offshore Drilling.
For students aboard this ship, the departure was a long-awaited milestone and one that had been put in jeopardy by the pandemic. “It has been a long time since I have been out on a ship and I am very excited to be finishing my education at Maine Maritime aboard the State of Maine,” says 1/C MIDN Andrew Todd. “It feels great to finally be back on board and sailing after such a tumultuous year.”
As part of their final preparations, all students, officers, and crew aboard the vessel completed three rounds of testing and quarantined before departure. “As with any significant evolution, it takes a dedicated team to achieve success. Everyone from the testing staff, to the crew, faculty, administration, and students did their part to ensure we could safely board the ship without the virus as an unwanted stowaway. I am thrilled to see everything come together and the students are enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn and put their skills to work.” says Captain John Cashman, Commandant of Midshipmen.
Due to ongoing safety precautions, shore-side liberty will not be granted during port calls, but scheduled stops will provide excellent training opportunities the chance to resupply and the voyage will enable students to meet sea time and instruction requirements for STCW (Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping), as mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Aboard are future professional sailors being taught and mentored by seasoned and experienced sailors. Part of the experience is learning how to live and work in close proximity with each other in an often challenging and arduous environment. Just as important, being underway aboard the training ship gives students the opportunity to experience life at sea; not have land in sight, observe sunrise over a clear horizon, marvel at the marine life, and enjoy being part of a team working together to safely operate the ship,” explains Cashman.
Sailing aboard the State of Maine is a critical achievement for many students at MMA. All students pursuing an officer’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard as third mate or third assistant engineer are required to train at sea during their first three years at the Academy. Usually, freshmen and juniors sail aboard the State of Maine while sophomores are assigned to merchant ships worldwide. These traditional patterns have been disrupted over the last year, but the college has worked to minimize disruptions for students.
“Cruise is an opportunity for us all to practice our professional skills,” says Todd. “For seniors, this is the final test to ensure that we are able to command a ship safely.”
The 500-foot, 16,000-ton Training Ship State of Maine, originally commissioned as the USNS Tanner, served as a Navy oceanographic research vessel before being converted in 1997 to accommodate the training needs of the college. The fourth vessel to bear the name State of Maine, the ship is a capable and excellent platform for training future professional mariners.
The ship is scheduled to return to Castine on May 21. The 260 students and crew will remain aboard the vessel until training officially ends on May 23, at which time seniors will take the five-day U.S. Coast Guard license exams on the MMA campus. The full cruise schedule can be found on the Port Information page. Friends, family, and fans are invited to follow the ship’s journey through the cruise blog at cruise.mainemaritime.edu.