CASTINE — Jean Devereux, 81, had heard about the disappearance of a cargo ship near the Bahamas last Thursday. When she found out Sunday morning that four of the 33 lost mariners are graduates of Maine Maritime Academy, she reacted with disbelief at first. Then she wept.

And like a lot of people here and on the nearby Maine Maritime Academy campus, she offered reasons for hope.

“Those kids are so well-trained. You are talking about the cream of the crop,” said Devereux, whose grandson graduated from the academy. “I think they’ll find them. They are smart, these kids.”

Anxiety and hope are wound together in Castine as planes and Coast Guard cutters continue to search for the missing 790-foot container ship El Faro, or survivors in life rafts.

People are anxious, but at the same time many say there’s no reason yet to give in to despair.

The lack of information is upsetting, said Bekah Campbell, 22, a graduate student from Corinth studying to be a port manager.


“We are all anxious, but we are hopeful, too,” she said. “We are really confident in the education we get here.”

Those interviewed Sunday said they didn’t want to discuss the decision of the ship’s captain, Michael Davidson of Windham, to sail on a course that took the ship into a hurricane.

Davidson graduated in 1988. Michael Holland of Wilton graduated in 2012. Danielle Randolph, 34, of Rockland graduated in 2004. Third assistant engineer Dylan Meklin, 23, also of Rockland, graduated last May.

Tyler Gilson, 20, a junior at the academy, said he’s a good friend of Meklin, and that he’s optimistic that Meklin and other crew members survived because of the extensive safety training they received.

“I think he’s going to be all right,” Gilson said while watching the academy’s women’s soccer team compete against Johnson State College. Like many students, he said he was frequently checking his phone to see if there was news on the search.

The disappearance of the El Faro has made some students more aware of the risks of being a merchant mariner, said freshman Ilya Bolduc, 20, of Vassalboro.


“It goes with the job,” he said. “You know what you are getting into.”

Even though he did not know any of the crew members, the school is so small that everyone is affected, Bolduc said.

The academy, which has about 950 students, mostly from Maine, is one of seven public maritime training colleges in the United States. It was established in 1941 at a time when the nation needed more merchant mariners for the war effort.

Its campus is situated near the center of Castine on a hill that slopes down to the Penobscot River. The State of Maine, a training vessel, is moored below the campus.

With nearly 1,400 year-round residents, Castine is a classic New England village. Many of its white-clapboard homes and public buildings were built in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Not only is the college the town’s largest employer, but many students are involved in the community, such as working as volunteer firefighters, said Ben Burton, 16, whose parents work at the academy.


“A lot of people here know someone who was on that ship,” Burton said.

Jill Schoof, an engineering professor at the academy, said teachers put a strong emphasis on safety to prepare students for a field that is inherently dangerous. She became upset when told by a reporter that one of the crew members was Meklin, a former student.

“Dylan?” she asked. “Yes. This will be a big tragedy.”


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