Bracing for Winter

5th Coast Guard District News
Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen

All the leaves have fallen. Nature’s autumnal palette of vibrant colors has faded away. The water’s surface will slowly turn to ice.

The Coast Guard stands ready to break it.

The artery that is the Delaware River provides the means to deliver goods, both needed for survival and the enjoyment of life. When that passage ceases to flow, the Coast Guard takes action.

Homeported in the City of Brotherly Love are two Coast Guard cutters, 65 feet in length, that bear the names Capstan and Cleat. A crew of seven complements each of these small-harbor tugs, carrying out ice operations — one of the Coast Guard’s 11 missions.

The winter months of 2013 and 2014 were demanding for the Capstan and Cleat. Ice jams on the Delaware River caused public concern of potential flooding. The crews of the ice-breaking tugs were in the spotlight, receiving applauded attention and public praise for their hard work while braving bone-chilling conditions. Then, when the weather warmed up, the crews began preparations to do it all again.

“Capstan’s crew has been preparing for the upcoming ice season by conducting shipboard drills and exercises to ensure we are prepared in case of a casualty to the ship,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Christopher Stover, the officer in charge of the Capstan. “We’re also conducting preventative maintenance to both machinery and rescue and survival gear.”

The Capstan is nearing the end of its 108 days of being dry-docked in Baltimore.

“We’re having multiple work items completed, including cropping and replacing some hull plating, having the rudder and propeller checked and repaired, having a keel cooler replaced and general maintenance of the 53-year-old cutter,” said Stover. “Completion of the dry dock will allow Capstan to be able to meet all bells.”

The crew of the Cleat has been busy preparing, too. Senior Chief Petty Officer Alyson Pulkkinen, the Cleat’s officer in charge, said her crew has trained on ice reporting, including types of ice and estimating coverage and thickness. They’ve also procured necessary equipment and undergone a thorough inspection to ensure proficiency and readiness.

As the water temperatures of the Delaware River plummet, the crews of the Capstan and Cleat stand ready to break the ice, keeping the vital waterway — and commerce — flowing.

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