CASTINE — The Maine Maritime Academy training ship State of Maine set sail last week carrying nearly 300 students, crew, instructors and support staff on a cruise scheduled to touch ports in Spain, England, Estonia and Norway before returning to the United States.
The ship is scheduled to return to Castine on July 13.
The ship sailed last Wednesday afternoon under the command of interim master Captain Brendan McAvoy, of Belfast. McAvoy has served on the MMA faculty and has held the position of chief mate of the State of Maine for 22 years.
Captain Leslie Eadie, who has served as captain of the vessel since 2011, is taking the summer off.
To comply with the sea time and instruction requirements of international Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), the total cruise length is 70 days.
Students pursuing a license from the U.S. Coast Guard as a third mate or third assistant engineer are required to train at sea during their first three years at MMA. Freshmen and juniors sail aboard the State of Maine while sophomores are assigned to merchant ships worldwide.
In past years, MMA training cruises have taken students to Aruba, Bermuda, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal and Russia, as well as other European, Caribbean and U.S. destinations.
The 500-foot, 16,000-ton Training Ship State of Maine, originally commissioned in 1990 as the USNS Tanner, served as a Navy oceanographic research vessel before being laid up out of commission in 1993. In 1997, the ship was converted to accommodate the training needs of the academy. It is the fourth vessel to bear the name State of Maine.
A fifth State of Maine may be just over the horizon. Funds to build a new training ship are in the current federal budget and, speaking at MMA’s commencement on May 4, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she was working to ensure that the funds stayed in the budget and possibly increased to replace the third oldest state maritime academy training vessel owned by the federal Maritime Administration.
The federal government has already approved spending some $600 million to replace the two older training vessels used at the State University of New York Maritime Academy and Massachusetts Maritime Academy.