Maine Maritime Academy flagship the State of Maine has returned to the United States after a two-month transatlantic voyage, its first major trip since before the pandemic. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Maine Maritime Academy flagship the State of Maine has returned to its home state after a two-month transatlantic voyage, the vessel’s first journey outside U.S. waters since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago.

The voyage – or “cruise” as it is called by the ship’s crew – took the academy’s 500-foot flagship to ports along the East Coast, Bermuda, Ponta Delgada in the Azores and Reykjavik, Iceland, the favorite of crew member and rising senior Pieter Oudejans.

Maine Maritime Academy President Jerry Paul stands on the bridge of the State of Maine on Monday. He says the academy’s flagship “projects the values of the state of Maine by sending students all across the world.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“In Iceland, we saw a lot of natural features – geysers, waterfalls, hot springs. Some really good scenery,” Oudejans said on Monday, a day after the ship arrived in Portland.

The onset of the pandemic kept the ship in port in 2020 and led to a limited voyage to U.S. ports in 2021. Students and faculty alike were eager to get back across the Atlantic and continue the ship’s educational mission.

“We want to give our students the broadest possible international experience and exposure,” MMA President Jerry Paul said. “What this ship does is exactly its name, the ‘State of Maine.’ It projects the values of the state of Maine by sending students all across the world.”

The practice of cruising on the State of Maine is a long-held tradition at the academy. Each year, roughly 200 rising sophomores and seniors pack and pile their sea bags onto the ship to partake in a 70-day journey to develop their seafaring skills. 


While onboard, students like Oudejans acquire certifications and hands-on experience for their future careers in the merchant marine. For Oudejans, who acted as the cadet second mate for the duration of the voyage, his hands-on training involved navigating the ship itself.

“What you get out of it is what you put into it,” Oudejans said. “While you’re (navigating), you’re responsible for 200 plus people. You have to learn to accept responsibility.”

Logan Eckmann, an engineering student gives a tour of the operation room of the Maine Maritime Academy ship State of Maine on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Along with the student crew, MMA graduates were present on the ship to help guide the young seamen. Capt. Gordon MacArthur believes that this ability to influence the next generation is one of the most important responsibilities he has.

“Being able to see the next generation of mariners learn, grow and get ready to go out into the industry is great,” MacArthur said. “They say knowledge is power, but it’s really only powerful if you share it.”

In addition to this learning experience, the voyage also acts as a way for students to solidify their career choices and form lifelong friendships.

“My freshman cruise is my most vivid memory … that’s what changed my mind from being a naval aviator,” MacArthur said.

“(Cruise friendships) are the tightest bond there is,” said Paul, also an MMA alum. “When you go to sea with a person, you’re friends for life.”


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