Thursday 6 February 2014

Ice Breaking Tug USCGC KATMAI BAY (WTGB-101)

The Bad News: The Groundhogs predictions are in and according to Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil and Ontario's Wiarton Willie, there will be NO EARLY SPRING this year. c):-(  News to the contrary would really have been appreciated by so many depressed souls in Ontario, the Great Lakes states and eastern seaboard who've had to bear unbelievably cold, raw wind and snowy winter weather since late November. Of course the hairy rodents really had no choice but to call for 6 more weeks of wintery bliss because last year when they predicted a near end to winter's misery, someone from Ohio threatened to take legal action against Phil when the cold and snow continued on, and on, and on. c):-o  Hey, if you can't take the cold, then stay in the kitchen or to go Florida, the Caribbean or simply your neighbour's hot tub and chill out, already!! c);-b
The Good News: With the Great Lakes being over 70% covered in ice, those folks who like to dabble their lines in freshly drilled holes along the frozen freshwater seas will now have a greater chance of catching a fish or many more this winter. Especially Lake Erie where 96% of the lake is a monster ice cube. There should also be less lake-effected snowstorms with the lakes frozen over and due to the deep freeze temps, excessive snowfalls and so much ice already on the Great Lakes, water levels are expected to rise significantly which has been extremely low over the past 20 years.c):-)

Meanwhile, motorists in Wisconsin and Illinois are probably pretty happy with this week's arrival of 50,000 tons of road salt in Milwaukee by Canadian self unloaders ALGOWOOD (snapped during Port Colborne's Canal Days 2012 and the ALGOSTEEL from the Sifto salt mine at Goderich, Ontario. As mentioned in my last post, many ships are getting stuck in the ice in the narrower channels of the St. Mary's, St. Clair and Detroit rivers, and any port (including Goderich) on lakes Michigan, Huron, and Erie. It's been no different on the Straits of Mackinac, where the USCGC MACKINAW (WLBB-30) and ice breaking tugs like USCGC KATMAI BAY (WTGB-101) have been called upon constantly this winter to assist one or convoy groups of freighters to open water. The cutter KATMAI BAY is the first of nine 140' Bay-class ice breaking tugs to be built for the American Coast Guard in Tacoma, Washington. Each can pass through freshwater ice up to 20" thick and break ice ridges up to 3' thick, through ramming.  Also, they are equipped with a system to lubricate their progress through the ice , by bubbling air through the hull, thereby clearing a path much wider than the tugs actual width of 37.5'. The other Bay-class tugs that are stationed on the Great Lakes and very active this winter are: BRISTOL BAY (Detroit, MI), MOBILE BAY (Sturgeon Bay, WI), BISCAYNE BAY, (St. Ignace, MI), NEAH BAY and MORRO BAY (Cleveland, OH). Commission in 1979, the KATMAI BAY's home port is Sault Ste. Marie where I snapped her last September, though today she has been churning up the ice and assisting the now downbound ALGOSTEEL and the tug/barge combo GREAT LAKES TRADER, also snapped below passing the cutter KATMAI BAY and buoy tender USCGC BUCKTHORN while approaching the entrance to the Poe Lock in the Soo. Like they say, it's not the size that matters, it's what these feisty little tugs can do that counts. c);-b

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