CASTINE, Maine — The State of Maine training ship, operated by Maine Maritime Academy, made a solemn stop Thursday morning during its two-week cruise to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The vessel, carrying 210 students and crew members, paused during its voyage to the Caribbean and held a memorial ceremony where the El Faro cargo ship sank on Oct. 1 when it crossed paths with Hurricane Joaquin.

Among the 33 crew members on board the El Faro when it went down were five Maine Maritime Academy graduates, four of whom were Maine residents. They were Capt. Michael Davidson of Windham, MMA Class of 1988; Danielle Randolph, 34, of Rockland, Class of 2005; Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton, Class of 2012; and Dylan Meklin, 23, of Rockland, Class of 2015. Mitchell Kuflik, who graduated from MMA in 2011 and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., also was on El Faro when it sank.

None of the crew members survived, and no bodies have been recovered. The sinking is considered the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel since 1983.

The last communication between the cargo ship and the mainland was made at 7:20 a.m. Oct. 1. The cargo carrier lost propulsion and was listing after encountering the Category 4 storm north of San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, Davidson said in his request for help.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the accident, has said the vessel was found on the ocean floor at a depth of about 15,000 feet near its last known position, just off Crooked Island in the southern Bahamas. The ship’s two-story bridge deck, which was sheared from the rest of the ship, was located on the ocean floor a half-mile away.

Images from the wreck of the vessel on the ocean floor were publicly released ahead of a 60 Minutes segment on the disaster that was broadcast on Sunday.

According to a post on the State of Maine training cruise blog, the weather Thursday morning to the east of Cat Island in the Bahamas was the best so far on the training cruise. Everyone who was not on watch gathered on the deck to lower a wreath into the ocean in honor of their fellow mariners.

“Captain [Leslie] Eadie read from John Masefield’s Sea Fever,” the unidentified author wrote in the post. “After the poem, the order to ‘present arms’ was given and all hands rendered honors as the wreath was eased over the rail and lowered to the water by the cadet masters and cadet chief engineers.”

Students and crew stayed where they were as the wreath floated away into the Atlantic Ocean.

“The mate on watch gave a long blast of the ship’s whistle to signal our farewell and the ceremony concluded. Afterward, many students remained at the rail to watch as the wreath passed from sight in what was a beautiful but somber morning.”

MMA President William Brennan, who is on the cruise, is quoted in the blog post as saying that the ceremony was “cathartic, well done, and appropriate,” inspiring everyone on board the vessel and bringing them together.

“I was moved before it began, when I went out on deck at about 0700 and saw the American flag flying at half-mast and signal flags flying to represent the last names of the MMA El Faro crew: D-R-K-H-M,” Brennan said. “We wish peace to all.”

The two-week training cruise is geared toward helping MMA students meet their at-sea requirements for their U.S. Coast Guard certifications. The ship left Castine on Jan. 2 and is expected to arrive at St. Croix on Friday, Jan. 8. It is scheduled to depart the island on Jan. 11 and to arrive back in Castine on Jan. 16.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....