CASTINE, Maine — With hundreds of spectators gathered, including 17 members of the Maine Maritime Academy Class of 1950, the T/S State of Maine returned to Castine on Saturday from its annual training cruise.
The ship and its 230 students and 55 crew members sailed more than 11,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean and back, stopping in the European ports of Marseille, France; Gibraltar; Kiel, Germany, and Portsmouth, England.
Last week, the State of Maine docked in Portland for its final port before heading home. On Saturday, the ship briefly stopped in Rockland to pick up parents of upperclass men and women for the final stretch.
“Germany was the best stop,” said junior Mike Walker of Bath, standing on the ship’s main deck shortly after it docked. “There was so much to do there.”
“And they had good beer,” added Andrew Aguiar of Warren, R.I.
Mark Seavey of Steuben, a junior who finished his second training cruise Saturday, said this trip was an opportunity for him to lead others rather than follow someone else’s lead.
“We really got to put our skills to use,” he said. “Now, we have to start looking for real jobs.”
After 60 days at sea, though, they were glad to be home, and the many loved ones who turned out in Castine were happy to have them home.
Kristi Birmingham of Lincoln was among the first to arrive Saturday to wait for the ship’s arrival. Her son Jesse Birmingham was a freshman aboard the State of Maine.
“I’ve never been out of Maine and here he is traveling across the world,” the mother said proudly. “I’m just so excited for him.”
Misty Fraser, 28, of Stockton Springs waited alone for her boyfriend, Dustin Mailloux. She said she hadn’t been able to talk to him much in the last two months, just a few short e-mails.
“It’s been hard,” she said. “I’ve just tried to stay busy.”
When the ship appeared on the horizon shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday and inched toward the MMA dock, dozens of spectators lined up and positioned their cameras.
“They all look the same from here,” one woman remarked.
Once the ship was secure, some students and crew members were allowed to disembark while others remained on duty, which made for an anti-climactic homecoming.
Capt. Laurence Wade, who led the training cruise for the 14th time, said the trip was fantastic but “the best part is coming home.” He was most looking forward to seeing his grandchildren and his newborn great-granddaughter.
Maine Maritime Academy President Bill Brennan, who flew to England to meet the ship earlier this month, said he relished listening to cadets tell stories of their experiences.
Jeff Loustaunau, the ship’s commandant, said having about 200 parents aboard the ship Saturday was a great way for the students to show off.
Loustaunau and Brennan agreed that the Class of 1950 alumni greeting the ship was a special moment.
Wilburt Brown, 81, who lives in Benton, was among of the Class of 1950 graduates who came out to welcome home the State of Maine. He marveled at how different both the training ship and the MMA campus look today compared to his college days.
“It’s world-class now,” Brown said. “I’m so proud of this school.”