Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw delivers Christmas trees, works buoys for Operation Fall Retrieve

Seaman Jared S. Medina officially delivers the Christmas trees on behalf of U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw during a ceremony Dec. 3, 2016 at Navy Pier in Chicago. Loaded with 1,200 Christmas trees, Mackinaw arrived in Chicago to serve as this year's Christmas Ship. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of USCGC Mackinaw

Seaman Jared S. Medina officially delivers the Christmas trees on behalf of U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw during a ceremony Dec. 3, 2016 at Navy Pier in Chicago. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of USCGC Mackinaw

CHICAGO — The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw returned to Chicago, Dec. 3, 2016,  as this year’s “Christmas Ship” loaded with 1,200 Christmas trees.

Each year, the Coast Guard partners with the Chicago Christmas Ship Committee to participate in the two-day event depicting the annual Chicago tradition from the early 1900s, combining the trip with the cutter’s annual aids-to-navigation mission as part of Operation Fall Retrieve. This annual operation affects 1,233 lighted and unlighted buoys and beacons throughout the Great Lakes.
The 1,233 aids, approximately half in the region, are taken out of service during the winter months due to decreased vessel traffic and are replaced with smaller, lighter and more buoyant buoys, known as wintermarks or ice hulls, that are designed to ride underneath the ice when it comes, but still stay on location.

The Coast Guard manages more than 3,000 fixed and floating federal aids in the region. The waters of the U.S. and its territories are marked to assist navigation by the U.S. Aids-to-Navigation System.

To accomplish Operation Fall Retrieve, the U.S. Coast Guard employs multiple cutters, ATON teams, and small boat stations with ATON duties. The U.S. Coast Guard also works with the Lamplighters, civilian employees who manage the inland waters of Northern Minnesota; Canadian Coast Guard crews; and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

In addition, members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary help inspect about 3,000 privately-owned aids to navigation in the region.

During the Christmas Ship event, students from Goodwin Elementary School and Jacqueline B. Kennedy schools were invited onboard the Mackinaw to learn about the original Christmas Tree Ship, the Rouse Simmons, and received a tour of the cutter. The crew of the Mackinaw, as well as active duty, reserve and auxiliary members assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan and Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago joined local volunteers to take part in off-loading the Christmas trees.
The Christmas trees purchased by the Chicago Christmas Ship Committee, will be distributed by more than 20 community service organizations to more than 1,000 deserving families throughout Chicago.

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