Thunder Bay’s usual winter tasking includes icebreaking along the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers,
with short stints on the Hudson. But with its sister ship
Penobscot Bay, which is based in Bayonne, N.J., and
normally breaks ice on the Hudson, having begun
service-life extension maintenance at the Coast Guard
Yard in Curtis Bay, Md., on Feb. 2, Thunder Bay was
called in to assist the Bayonne-based Sturgeon Bay and
the service’s other icebreaking assets on the river.
“It is important as a commercial waterway, and we
were happy to do our part and help out,” Bender said.
“It’s a good thing to be able to provide this service to the
maritime industry and the communities that need it.”
Thunder Bay’s winter pinch-hitting duty on the
Hudson is likely to continue for the near future, as
once Penobscot Bay is back in action, Sturgeon Bay is
next up for service-life extension maintenance, according to Stuck. The nine Bay-class tugs, which operate in
the Northeast and on the Great Lakes, can break ice up
20 inches thick using a “bubbler” system that forces air
and water between the hull and ice, and up to 3 feet
thick by backing and ramming.
The vessels, which can carry a crew of 17, are
between 27 and 36 years old. As part the service-life
extension, they are receiving upgrades to propulsion
and electrical systems, boat-launching davit replacements and habitability improvements.
Even older are the small harbor tugs. The 11 currently in service, all in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic,
were built between 1961 and 1967. The steel-hulled
tugs, with a crew of up to eight, are capable of breaking
18 inches of ice with propulsion ahead and 21 inches
by backing and ramming.
The unrelenting cold and snow put the capabilities of
all of the First District icebreaking assets to the test.
“The challenge this year was that we had ice accumulating thickly and completely in places where we
don’t typically see it, and much of that was due to the
hard winter storms, getting a lot of snow and, instead
of a thawing period that would normally happen right
afterwards for a few days, where snow would subside
and melt away a bit, we got cold snaps immediately following every winter storm that we had,” Stuck said.
With conditions impacting not only fuel deliveries,
but also commuter ferry and water taxi service, fishing
fleets, maritime commerce, aids-to-navigation and, in
some cases, Coast Guard facilities themselves, icebreak-
ing in the Northeast became an “all-hands” proposition,
something LT Karen Kutkiewicz, First District public
affairs officer, described as ”emergency mode.”
“In a normal winter scenario in the First District, we
will have three medium-endurance icebreakers, 140-foot
tugboats; we will have two 225-foot buoy tenders that
are very proficient track maintainers. The 225s are very
powerful and they do great going forward,” Stuck said.
“We have eight 65-foot harbor tugs which, this year in
particular, because we had such prolific ice in areas we
had not normally seen it, they really did a bang-up job of
breaking out those smaller ports and accessing places
that in recent past seasons we haven’t seen any ice or
needed to break ice there. Those 65s were awesome. The
65s absolutely were the heroes of this ice season.
“Finally, we actually do have four 175-foot tenders.
They have 360-degree active drives — Z drives, we call
them — which tend to get very clogged up with ice, brash
ice in particular, stuff that’s been
chopped up and refrozen quickly. So
we try to keep them away from icebreaking. If you get up to 11 to 12
inches of ice or more, they just cannot be effective,” Stuck said.
“This year, in places in south-
eastern Massachusetts, the Boston
area, Portland, Maine, we were fac-
ing problems being driven by 8 to
10 inches of ice and, as it turns
out, the 175-foot tenders were very
effective in breaking that. In previ-
ous seasons, we had never thought
to use them because we didn’t have
to use them. This year, we did.”
Stuck was quick to credit the ice-
breaking crews for stepping up to the
challenge and persevering through
the particularly difficult season to en-
sure critical waterways stayed open.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 24 SEAPOWER / JULY/AUGUST 2015
The Coast Guard 175-foot coastal buoy tender Marcus Hanna breaks ice near
Boston on Feb. 17. Marcus Hanna broke ice and reset buoys in New England waterways in support of Operation Reliable Energy for NorthEast Winters (RENEW).