MMA Cadets Get Ready To Ship Out For Sea Term

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By: Michael J. Rausch
Published: 01/12/12

For 10 months a year, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s Training Ship Kennedy is docked at the end of Taylor’s Point in Buzzards Bay.

Then, in early January, faculty and cadets breathe life into the nearly 45-year-old ship and head out to sea for two months on what is called Sea Term.

Judging from the ship’s itinerary, there is a temptation to say they are heading out on a Caribbean pleasure cruise. Buzzards Bay to Charleston, South Carolina, down through the Panama Canal to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands and back to Buzzards Bay. Even some of the officers who will be onboard when the Kennedy departs are known to refer to the upcoming trip as a cruise. That is a term that the president of the academy, Rear Admiral Richard G. Gurnon, would like to see banished.

“It’s not a cruise,” Admiral Gurnon said with a smile, in his typically affable manner.

The admiral made it very clear that the Kennedy is a working ship and cadets are onboard to work and to learn.

The heavy lifting started yesterday when cadets began loading classroom equipment and all the food for 700 people for 50 days at sea. In the days before that, they loaded their own gear into their quarters in preparation for the upcoming voyage.

The Kennedy was launched in 1967 as the SS Velma Lykes. Renamed the SS Cape Bon, she served the US Navy for 20 years, including during the first Persian Gulf War.

In 2001, the Cape Bon was acquired by Mass Maritime and converted into a training ship called the Enterprise at a cost of $40 million. Admiral Gurnon said the Enterprise was expanded in 2009 “because the academy was growing.” One hundred bunks and 20 staff staterooms were added. It was also renamed the Kennedy in honor of the Kennedy family.

The Kennedy weighs 18,549 tons, fully loaded. It is 540 feet in length, 76 feet across and 119 feet from its keel to the top of its radar mast, with a top speed of 20 knots, or 23 miles, per hour.

Sunday morning the cadets leave for Sea Term 2012.

This will be the 27th cruise for Thomas L. Bushy, his 16th as captain.

During the 50 days they will spend at sea, the cadets will get hands-on training in their chosen major, one of six offered at the academy. The academy offers two majors that will lead cadets to a career on the seas, marine engineering and marine transportation. Marine engineering prepares cadets for a career managing operations below decks, while marine transportation gets them ready for a position on deck, navigating.

There are four alternative majors offered at the academy, as well: facilities management, international marine business, marine safety and environmental protection, and emergency management. Those four majors are designed to prepare cadets for positions that are maritime-related, but land-based. Freshmen are exposed to each of those majors through onboard classes during Sea Term.

Admiral Gurnon explained that in their freshman year, cadets choose a major, but they can change it as they head into their sophomore year. Once they are in their sophomore year, they stick with their chosen major. In addition, freshmen take classes in all the disciplines offered by the academy, so a big part of Sea Term is deciding which major to pursue.
Sophomore Amelia R. Crane of Marstons Mills is a marine engineering major. A graduate of Barnstable High School,

Amelia is heading out on her second Sea Term. Last year, she went to Mexico, Barbados and Puerto Rico. She said she chose marine engineering because she “likes math.” Admiral Gurnon explained that because Amelia is a sophomore and she chose engineering, she will be in the ship’s engine room, “making the electricity, making the water, taking care of the wastewater plant, making the thing go.”

Freshman Priscilla M. Stoll of Bourne is an international marine business major. Priscilla said she chose international business because she wants to travel the world. Priscilla said she developed her taste for travel because her family is from Germany so she travels there often.

As a “deckie,” Priscilla will spend much of her time on the ship’s bridge, learning about navigation. Her time onboard will be divided into 10 days on watch duty, which is a cycle of four hours on the bridge and eight hours off. During the eight hours she is off the bridge, she takes classes that include a mid-term and final exam, and also does what the admiral euphemistically called “maintenance.”

“Someone’s got to do the laundry, someone’s got to do the food, someone’s got to do the cleanup, someone’s got to wash all the dishes, that would be them,” he said, referring to the cadets.

The cadets sleep in coffin-like bunks stacked one atop the other. The bunks are steel compartments with a mattress, and are so narrow that built-in straps are used to keep cadets from falling out onto the floor. In some cases, cadets also prop up their life jacket as a secondary measure to keep them from falling out. A storage compartment beneath their bunk houses shoes, some clothing and personal items. Cadets use a standup locker for their uniforms—blue shirts for when they eat in the ship’s mess, white shirts for formal occasions, such as dressing the rails when they arrive in port, and a pair of blue coveralls, which is what they wear the majority of the time.

Engineering cadets who work below decks, in the ship’s engine room, are required to wear only their blue coveralls, but additional personal protection equipment. It is mandatory that they also wear hard hats, steel-toed boots, and eye and ear protection. The temperature inside the engine room, with the twin boilers operating, was a relatively comfortable 80 degrees, with the outside temperature at below freezing. The admiral said when the ship hits the Equator where the outside temperature will be 80, the temperature inside the engine room jumps to 120, “with 100 percent humidity.”

Admiral Gurnon said the experience cadets gain from working the Kennedy during Sea Term in preparation for their future careers, along with the exposure they get to all of the academy’s majors, is invaluable.

“Sea Term is the opportunity for me to give a little bit of all the majors to all of our freshmen because it’s a good thing,” the admiral said.

 

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