Mass. Maritime’s Sea Term Begins This Weekend

BUZZARDS BAY – About 600 cadets from Massachusetts Maritime Academy will ship off this weekend on the T.S. Kennedy for the annual Sea Term.

The training vessel departs Buzzards Bay early Saturday morning for a nearly two-month voyage south which includes ports of call in Barbados, Jamaica, Columbia, Tampa and a humanitarian aid drop in Haiti.

MMA President Admiral Fran McDonald said the stops make it seem like a cruise, but the cadets are onboard to work and learn.

“They’re standing watch, taking classes and probably working on average of 10 to 12 hours per day,” McDonald said. “And we as do get to those exotic ports of call they do get a little bit of time off with 200 or 300 of their best friends, but then we get right back after it.”

Sea Term allows cadets to put into practice what they have been learning at the academy from one semester to three and ½ years.

During the trip cadets will rotate through class and laboratory training, handle ship operations and perform maintenance and emergency drills.

The upperclassmen will put into practice what they are learning in preparation to sit for a United States Coast Guard license to join the civilian Merchant Marine.

“If you think about the importance of cooperative education, experiential education, and hands on education – to really take what is learned from a book and put it into practice – the value of that really cannot be overstated,” McDonald said.

McDonald said the voyage helps cadets find out if careers at sea are really the business they want to be in, especially for the first year students.

“For the upperclass students, to begin to have leadership roles in charge of the underclass, through that watchstanding, it really does prepare them to go to work on day 1 as a licensed officer in charge of the watch,” he said.

Senior students have been working over the past week to get the steam plant ready for departure and about 500 underclassmen arrived Monday to clean the ship and load supplies.

The vessel just recently returned to Buzzards Bay after being utilized for humanitarian aid after the three major hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast, Florida and the Caribbean.

McDonald said having the vessel gone for the fall was both a blessing and a curse.

“The ship was away so our students were not quite keeping up with some of the shipboard maintenance and familiarity. So there was a big scramble there and a lot of work done by our ship’s crew to make that happen,” McDonald said. “But while away the ship is up and running and working, and it that’s always better for a ship to be up, plant on, as opposed to sitting cold steel on a dock somewhere.”

McDonald, who graduated from MMA and participated in Sea Term, said the voyage is a magical experience.

“As you first slip the lines and start to put Buzzards Bay off your stern, you immediately feel a slow rumbling and rolling of that vessel as you being to make way,” he said. “And that sort of rockin’ and rollin’ is the first thing, even as you put your head on the pillow and lay down in your rack that first night, is something that you never forget.”

McDonald said seeing the stars on a clear night for the first time in the open ocean is also something that has always stuck with him.

“It’s really pretty stunning,” he said.

About 100 faculty and staff will join the 600 cadets on Sea Term.


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