After some Castine residents complained that the Maine Maritime Academy’s training ship was torturing them with noise and vibrations while tied up at the town dock, the ship has sailed to a different community.
The State of Maine arrived at the Sprague Energy Terminal at Mack Point in Searsport on Friday, where graduating seniors will complete their month-long dockside “cruise.”
William Brennan, the president of Maine Maritime Academy, fired back at the community that is home to the public college and nautical training institution, saying the way the students and crew were treated “is not something I will soon forget.”
“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,” he said in a statement shared on Facebook.
The move happened after the Castine selectboard met virtually on July 6 to hear complaints from residents. It voted 2-1 to give the school 30 days to comply with a noise ordinance, according to the Ellsworth American. If it could not, the school faced fines of $100 per day.
“We love the academy,” resident Merissa Rogers told the board. “We’re not trying to prevent these kids from graduating. We’re just trying to have a productive discussion to try and make it so we’re not being tortured 24/7.”
Normally, students, faculty and staff already would have boarded the State of Maine to sail away on a training cruise. Last year, the ship crossed the Atlantic and made stops in Portsmouth, England and Barcelona, Spain, among other ports of call. But the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to that plan.
In late May, the academy was approved by the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct a different kind of cruise altogether — this one with students, faculty and ship’s crew aboard the training ship, which would remain tied up at the dock in Castine, according to the Ellsworth American.
Prior to boarding on Wednesday, July 8, faculty and crew members were slated to be tested twice for COVID-19. No one would board or leave during the six-week training period.
But even before the cruise officially began, the community was bothered by noise from the ship, which was running diesel generators and periodically ran its main engines. According to the Ellsworth American, Castine Town Manager Shawn Blodgett said on Monday that there had been four nighttime violations of the town’s noise ordinance.
“This is seriously affecting a lot of people in this town,” Ben Rogers, who owns a home near to the dock and graduated from Maine Maritime Academy, said at Monday’s meeting.
Another resident, Daniel Leader, said he could feel the vibrations at his house half a mile away from the dock.
“It is very, very disruptive, to the point where you can’t sleep at night,” he said at the meeting.
Some residents wondered why the ship couldn’t anchor in the bay for its training cruise, the Ellsworth American reported. Brennan explained in an email after the meeting that it was for health and safety reasons.
“Even the double-testing is not failsafe,” he wrote. “Remaining pier-side allows us to have immediate shoreside support for any issue that may arise, whether it is pandemic-related or otherwise.”
Brennan said that the noise complaints from Castine residents prompted “numerous efforts that diverted attention from the mission of the training endeavor.” He said that the move to Searsport should allow the 60 students, faculty and crew aboard to continue training activities, including having students work on the ship’s main engine, generators, sanitation system, refrigeration and more. The cruise is scheduled to end on August 8.
“Re-docking in Searsport will allow the students, faculty and crew to focus on the educational and training mission of the Fast Cruise,” Brennan said.