CASTINE, Maine — Kaarie Burns and Lucas Furhman will soon visit Spanish cities Vigo and Barcelona, but they really look forward to seeing one of the great cities of sailing — Portsmouth, in the United Kingdom.
The home of the interactive National Museum of the Royal Navy and the wooden warship HMS Victory, where legendary British Adm. Horatio Nelson died in the Battle of Trafalgar, Portsmouth once represented the teeth of the British Empire, the prime port of one of the world’s greatest navies.
Burns and Fuhrman were among close to 300 Maine Maritime Academy cadets, instructors and staff who embarked Wednesday on a 70-day cruise aboard the academy training ship State of Maine. Academy cadets have taken major training voyages annually since the academy’s founding in 1941, and the history they encounter is part of what makes the trips valuable learning experiences.
“Really, it’s about learning. There’s a lot of stuff to do. You can’t ever really learn enough,” said Fuhrman, a 21-year-old sophomore cadet from Michigan. “There is always something more to learn.”
State of Maine will also visit Tallinn, Estonia; Oslo, Norway; Boston; and Searsport, although the schedule and ports are subject to change.
The voyage got underway at about 3 p.m. Several hundred people lined the Maine Maritime Academy waterfront to see off the students. Many were parents. Rick and Pam Clay-Storm came from North Conway, New Hampshire, to stand on the dock as the ship prepared to launch.
Their son, Oliver Clay-Storm, is a freshman cadet taking his first voyage of any sort on the ocean, a fact that excited them.
“Honestly, I think they are prepared, as prepared as they can be, and this is an excellent opportunity,” Pam Clay-Storm said.
That their son was going on the journey was still somewhat bizarre to his parents, Rick Clay-Storm said. Oliver had never before expressed an interest in maritime activities before enrolling at the academy.
“Oliver is an adventurous spirit,” Pam Clay-Storm said. “He wants to travel, and he wants adventure, and this fits the bill.”
Launched in 1990, the State of Maine is due to be replaced by a new vessel in eight to 10 years. Over the past two years, the federal government has approved spending $300 million each to replace two vessels, at the State University of New York Maritime College and Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Funding to replace the State of Maine, the third-oldest ship in the U.S. Maritime Administration’s six-ship training fleet, is in the budget President Donald Trump has proposed to Congress, William Brennan, MMA’s president, said.
SUNY-Maritime expects to seek proposals for its replacement ship this year, he said. Construction is expected to take two or three years. Texas A&M and California Maritime Academy are due to receive training ships after MMA. The average age of school training ships is 37 years, and the administration says the ships are nearing the end of their service lives.
“They are being replaced as they need to be replaced,” Brennan said. “The most effective way for us to do this is to develop a replacement plan over an extended period of time.”
The State of Maine is in fine shape. Its lifeboats were upgraded and its exterior sandblasted and repainted about two years ago when it was last in for routine maintenance and repair, Brennan said.