Cutter Mackinaw Completes First Icebreaking Mission

MACKINAC STRAITS, Mich – USCGC Mackinaw escorted tugs James A. Hannah and Mary E. Hannah through the Mackinac Straits Wednesday, marking the first ice escort assignment in her history.

In preparation for the arrival of the Hannah tugs, Mackinaw groomed and widened a track from Round Island Passage, beneath the Mackinac Bridge to Lansing Shoal Light. This “track maintenance” required power and finesse to crush and flatten windrows, groom turns and flush loosened ice to ready the track.

As a new asset to Operation Taconite- the icebreaking operation covering Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River, the Mackinac Straits and Green Bay- Mackinaw got an early start on the assignment not only to ready the ice for the tugs, but also to provide an opportunity for the Cutter’s navigation team to log critical icebreaking training.

The western-most ice edge, extending just beyond the Lansing Shoal light, held the thickest and most besetting ice of the transit. To break up this 3-6 foot thick brash ice under immense pressure, Mackinaw sliced curved tracks and then made high-speed passes through them, using her wake to disrupt and dissipate the concentrated ice. The Northeast winds helped carry the ice floes south and out of the path of the Hannah tugs.

Mackinaw’s next assignment will be another Straits escort operation to assist the tug Michigan who originated her transit in Chicago with a load of heating oil bound for Cheboygan, Michigan (coincidentally Mackinaw’s home port). The escort is currently scheduled for Monday, February 19th.

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