The T.S. Kennedy is fully prepared for the annual Sea Term – loaded with 594 cadets and 100 officers and crew. This past week has been hectic, but we did not encounter any show stoppers. Our big concern was the finishing touches on a new boiler automation system installed over the past few months. This new system brings the boiler operation up to a modern level – an operating system that graduating engineers will likely encounter. The old system worked, but it was designed in the sixties, and required a large amount of manual operation. This new system automates management of the fires as the steam demand changes – and promises significant fuel savings. That is something I look forward to, as we normally burn over one barrel – or 42 gallons of fuel – for every mile we steam.
We are sailing with nearly 320 fourth class cadets, and the remainder of the 594 is Third Class and First Class cadets. (Our Second Class cadets are all fulfilling their sea time requirements aboard US merchant ships – plying every ocean of the world.) This year our familiarization of the Fourth Class was made easier as they all shipped out aboard the Kennedy in August during the Orientation Mini-Cruise to Boston. All the cadets aboard will fulfill roles in watch standing and maintenance, as well as complete a rigorous training experience that merges the theoretical with the practical operations of the ship.
Our voyage this year will depart on Sunday, 8 January. We will head south and stop in Charleston, SC for fuel – about 8,500 barrels will be loaded from a barge. Then we’ll head off to the Panama Canal where will transit into the Pacific Ocean. Once there we’ll turn north and visit the port of Golfito, Costa Rica for three days, then off toward the equator crossing. After the initiation of the cadets (and some crew) into Shellback status, we’ll track into Guayaquil, Ecuador for a port visit. Then we’ll steam to Panama City for another three day port stop. The ship’s visit to Panama is always exciting because we have a very large alumni contingent working the Canal. Off we’ll go into the Caribbean Sea and our final port visit in St. Thomas US Virgin Islands. The Kennedy will turn north and return to Buzzards Bay on 19 February – with a well-trained, tanned and seasoned cadre of knowledgeable mariners.I will post logs on most days throughout the trip – and will be assisted by our Follow-the-Voyage coordinator, Mrs. Meredith Emery, and her cadet assistant, Libby Buck. I’m looking forward to this voyage, and I hope all the cadets and crew feels the same. Casting off the lines after months at the dock always makes a seafarer smile – and we hope we can bring some of that joy to you through this blog.