CASTINE — Maine Maritime Academy’s training ship, State of Maine, will return to Castine mid-afternoon on Friday, July 31, to conclude a month-long training exercise, MMA President William Brennan announced this week.
The ship is returning from Searsport, where it has been anchored since departing its homeport July 10. The ship relocated after some Castine residents raised concerns about noise and possible pollution from the ship.
The “fast cruise” — as in held fast — began July 8 and has 60 students and crew aboard. It was designed for senior engineering and navigation students who need to accrue final hours of sea time and operational experience required by the U.S. Coast Guard to obtain their unlimited license credentials and their degrees.
The MMA waterfront will be closed to visitors and traffic on July 31. The students and crew will remain aboard until the training ends on Aug. 4. After the cruise concludes, students will take the five-day U.S. Coast Guard exams on the MMA campus as specially arranged with the Coast Guard. Ship operations will conclude on Aug. 5.
COVID-19 tests, coordinated through a partnership with The Jackson Laboratory and Guilford-based Puritan Medical Products, were conducted prior to boarding. Normal summer training cruises (destinations vary) were canceled due to the pandemic.
The academy received approval for the alternative, “fast cruise” plan from the Coast Guard in late May.
At a July 6 Zoom meeting between town selectmen and residents, Castine residents complained about noise and vibrations from the docked ship. Town Manager Shawn Blodgett acknowledged there had been four evening violations of the town’s noise ordinance, which prohibits noise levels above 50 decibels from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and noise levels above 60 decibels between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The readings taken by the town ultimately showed four readings in violation of the nighttime noise limit of 50 decibels. The average of the four was 53.1 decibels. Castine selectmen voted 2-1 at the July 6 meeting to give the college 30 days to come into compliance with the town’s noise ordinance or face fines of $100 per day.
That Friday, the ship left town.
“I have never been opposed to moving the vessel, but until I was absolutely sure that our testing, quarantine and isolation measures kept the virus off the ship, I was unwavering in my view that the ship needed to be alongside our pier in case of a medical emergency,” Brennan said in a statement at the time. “The distraction of complaints from a few Castine residents is out of proportion and embarrassing for a town that is largely supportive of the college and our mission. The way in which the academy, my students and crew have been treated in this matter, is not something I will soon forget.”