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Sailing to their life on the sea

There are 420 Massachusetts Maritime Academy cadets working aboard TS Kennedy during a six-week term at sea that began Jan. 10, time to apply classroom knowledge to the ship. Among the many cadets, three are from Martha’s Vineyard: freshman Caleb Burt, sophomore Taylor Trudel, and junior Jacob Maccaferri.

The Times spoke by phone with the three students after the Kennedy stopped at a port in Charleston, South Carolina.

The three island cadets were drawn to the school for a variety of reasons: the school’s programs, the costs, the hands-on experience and the job opportunities provided after graduation. A unifying factor for the three was their desire for a life on the water.

“The number one thing I wanted to look for in college was somewhere that could lead me to a career on the water,” Burt said. He also wanted to go to a school that would not waste his money and maximize his job prospects.

Trudel discovered the existence of MMA during his freshman year of high school. He toured the school and “fell in love” with it. The academy was the only college Trudel applied to and he planned to enlist in the Coast Guard if he was not accepted.

“I got into Mass Maritime, and that’s the story from there,” Trudel said. “I have been very lucky.”

“Being on the water is pretty much all I’ve ever known, so I just knew I wanted to be in a maritime profession somehow,” Maccaferri said. He considered enlisting in the Coast Guard, but felt the academy’s payback and reputation were too good to pass up. “Let’s hope it works. »

The three cadets, all of whom major in shipping, agreed that school is academically difficult. During the semester at sea, class work and grades are done on the Kennedy while learning about the various duties on the ship. Specifically, cadets perform four rotational tasks on the ship: classroom, utilities (trash compactor work, ship watch, etc.), maintenance (painting, needle gun work, etc.) .) and surveillance (watch out for dangers to the ship, follow navigation systems, etc.). The job can be tough, Burt said. He and Maccaferri believe that surveillance is the most difficult task, although it is useful because it models what they will do on a ship in the future.

Burt said Friday he woke up at 2:30 a.m. for a 3:15 a.m. shift, the day the Kennedys arrived in South Carolina. He said he had been awake for about 22 hours that day.

“’Learn, do, learn.’ It’s kind of their motto,” said Trudel, who likes to be on the lookout. “It’s a bit like trial by fire, but it’s very rewarding.”

Maccaferri said he learns more during term at sea than in regular classrooms.

The Kennedy will take the cadets to a few ports during their voyages: Charleston, South Carolina, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Tampa, Florida. Stopping at these ports allows cadets to relax and explore each location. Trudel took a tour of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown while in South Carolina.

If the ship is not in port, the cadets perform their duties, study and undergo drills. In Puerto Rican waters, cadets practiced anchor drills, which involve learning how to drop anchor and “emergency maneuvers” like rescuing someone overboard, according to Maccaferri.

When asked, cadets said they had their own goals or were considering aspirations after college.

Both Burt and Maccaferri want to be a ship’s third mates.

Burt attended a presentation in high school last year about Vineyard Wind and the offshore wind farm the company plans to build. This company was “attractive” for him because it allowed him to be at sea but not as long as on something like a cargo ship.

“Whatever takes me, I’ll go for it,” Maccaferri said. He plans to “make a lot of money” while young to get rid of student loans. Maccaferri also plans to see the world on his employer’s ship. After a while, he wants to find something local, like a tugboat or a private yacht. “Expedition isn’t really for family life after all.”

Trudel said he wasn’t exactly sure what he planned to do after graduation, but he said there were “a lot of opportunities.”

Cadets were confident in the ability of the academy to make them attractive to employers. After graduating, they receive licenses, such as Marine Engineering and Coast Guard Marine Transportation.

The Kennedy is now en route to San Juan. Check the location of the ship on