Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay comes to aid of 2 vessels beset by ice in Straits of Mackinac

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND — The crew of a Coast Guard cutter came to the aid of two vessels that became beset by ice in the Straits of Mackinac Friday night and Saturday morning.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay, a 140-foot ice-breaking tug homeported in St. Ignace, Mich., aided the vessels while engaged in Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation, which began in December.

At 4:40 p.m. Friday, the watchstander at Coast Guard Sault Ste. Marie Vessel Traffic Service, was contacted by the crew of the ferry Huron, who reported they had become beset by ice with 68 people aboard while transiting from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island. There were no reports of injury or other medical concerns and the master of the ferry felt the 90-foot vessel was not in danger of running aground.

The crew of Biscayne Bay arrived at 6:20 p.m. and was able to free the ferry without incident. After the ferry safely entered Mackinac Island Harbor, the crew of Biscayne Bay remained close by as the ferry offloaded their passengers and onloaded more.

Due to the fact that ice was reportedly building at Round Island Passage, the crew of Biscayne Bay remained with the ferry Huron for its return trip to St. Ignace. At 8:25 p.m. both the Huron and the Biscayne Bay were safely moored in St. Ignace.

Early Saturday morning, the crew of Biscayne Bay was called on again to assist a vessel in the Straits of Mackinac.

The crew of the motor vessel Manistee, a 676-foot bulk carrier, had contacted the Coast Guard Sault VTS at 5:18 a.m., reporting the ship had become beset by ice with 18 people aboard about 10 nautical miles west of the Mackinac Bridge.

The ship was reportedly in ballast, carrying no cargo.

For a time, the crew of Manistee was able to free the vessel, but could only operate at low speeds, due to the icy conditions. The crew of Biscayne Bay was on scene at 8:50 a.m. and was able to safely free the motor vessel and escort it through the Round Island Passage and into the open waters of Lake Huron.

In support of Operation Taconite this year, the crew of Biscayne Bay has broken ice throughout Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, but aiding vessels close the cutter’s homeport is particularly special for the crew.

“We don’t get many opportunities to assist our local community, right here in St. Ignace,” said Lt. Matthew Walter, commanding officer of Biscayne Bay.

“Any time we can meet the needs of industry here in the straits and take care of our neighbors, it gives us an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to our unit motto of the “Sentinel of the Straits.”

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