Written by Dottie Mitchell.
The first few weeks of the New Year have seen frigid temperatures ice over many parts of the country, including vital navigable waterways. As many Americans found themselves bundling up to stay warm, the Coast Guard embraced the cold and worked tirelessly to keep waterways open for commerce.
One of the iced-over waterways was the Delaware River, which had ice up to five-feet thick. Coast Guard Cutter Capstan was joined by Coast Guard Cutter Cleat to break the ice in the region and ensure the waterway was safe and navigable.
“This is what the cutters are built for. This is what the crews train for,” remarked Lt. Veronica Smith, chief of the waterways management division at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia.
The ice breaking was put on hold for Capstan, however, when a vital ship’s component broke down. Capstan, a 65-foot harbor tug homeported in Philadelphia, Pa., limped into the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore on January 14 for emergency repair of its keel cooler, comparable to a car’s radiator. The keel cooler’s damage put an immediate halt to the tug’s operational mission.
The Yard quickly dry-docked the small harbor tug, and tradesmen from the Yard’s Pipe Shop jumped into action to begin emergency repairs. It was an all-hands on deck evolution as the Yard realized this ice-breaking tug was needed now more than ever. The dedication of the Yard’s personnel paid off and the repair of Capstan’s keel cooler was complete within 24 hours.
Capstan’s crew departed Baltimore to continue their critical ice-breaking mission and to once again brave the cold. Capstan is back on the Delaware River maintaining navigable waterways and preventing accidents for mariners at sea during the winter of 2014 – when ice breaking can’t wait!