And They're Back

Ella Strano Leaves the Ship

Photo Courtesy Nelson Brace Photography

After spending seven weeks at sea and in various ports, the TS Kennedy and its Massachusetts Maritime Academy cadets returned home to Buzzards Bay last Sunday, February 23. Since their departure on January 11 they traveled to Balboa, Panama; Golfito, Costa Rica; Curaçao, and Tampa, Florida.Their journey reached its conclusion when the ship entered the Cape Cod Canal around 7:30 AM.

As a freshman cadet who went on the sea term voyage for the first time, 4/C (freshman) Cadet Ella Strano (above) said that the trip was one of the most valuable experiences that she has had. Ms. Strano is a marine transportation major. She said that her work during the term was focused on teaching her about shipboard practices and will serve as an introduction to the classes she will take in the future. Many of the cadets on board the ship had never crossed the equator before, which made this particular trip even more special, Ms. Strano said.

“This sea term was extra special, due to the fact that between Panama and Costa Rica we crossed the equator and the majority of us on the ship participated in the shellback ceremony,” she said.The exact details of the ceremony are kept secret, but Ms. Strano said that it involved a lot of seawater and fish. “I loved how it made all of the cadets feel as if they are a part of something bigger,” she said. “The staff on the ship who were already shellbacks made us, the polliwogs, very hyped for the experience by being very into it themselves.”

Ms. Strano said the staff got dressed up to take roles within King Neptune’s court as part of the ceremony and that their enthusiasm rippled out to the students taking part in the event. For freshman cadets, Ms. Strano said, the term was split into two parts—the engineering side and the deck side. She said that their time on the ship was spent learning about the steam cycle and other cycles in the TS Kennedy engine room, as well as learning how to man the helm, chart, and certain shipboard safety skills.

Despite the sea term being a school-run event, Ms. Strano said, the experience was very much student-led. “Our seniors run the show in conjunction with the staff,” she said. “Seeing my upperclassmen having the reins gave me confidence that Mass Maritime will truly prepare me for taking on leadership roles by the time I am a senior.” She said that while on the ship she found herself looking for advice from the senior cadets, more so than from the ship’s staff engineers.

Life aboard the Kennedy was more than just work and learning, however. While in port the students had the opportunity to explore on liberty days. Ms. Strano said her favorite memories included waking up early to watch the sunrise over the ocean from the ship, and the shellback ceremony.“I also made many memorable moments in port,” she said. “Curaçao was by far the best port. The city of Willemstad was filled with color and there was always live music.” At the end of the journey, Ms. Strano said that she had an amazing time that she will remember forever.

Throughout the seven weeks, blogs were kept online by several cadets; the ship’s captain, Michael J. Campbell; and the ship’s mascots, Little Buc and Giles Hopkins. Both mascots are toys that travel on the ship with the cadets. Their blogs are written by Follow the Voyage coordinator Nancy Franks. Giles was a new addition this year and was added in collaboration with Plimoth Plantation to celebrate that town’s 400th birthday. His blogs would connect Plymouth and Mayflower history to the Kennedy and whatever the cadets were experiencing at different points during the trip.

For example, on February 19, Little Buc and Giles shared a blog about the Gulf Stream. “Although the Gulf Stream will help the TS Kennedy this week, historians believe that it actually slowed the Mayflower down,” Giles wrote in the blog. He said that since the stream heads north and branches west, the Kennedy would be helped while traveling north from Florida. The Mayflower was traveling against the stream as it sailed west.

Over the two-month term, students from around the world were able to follow along using the website and could submit questions and participate in activities that related to what the cadets were doing on board. Students from elementary through high schools were invited to participate. After arrival this week, the TS Kennedy was sent off to dry dock—a routine that has to be repeated twice every five years to keep up with the US Coast Guard regulations. While in dry dock, the ship will receive any maintenance and repairs that it needs.

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