When the Rivers Clog with Ice, It’s Time for the Coast Guard
She's older than her Captain, and as he might joke, more experienced at the job of ice breaking on Maine rivers. That's because the Officer in Charge of the Coast Guard Cutter Tackle, BMC Marc Moore, has only been aboard the fifty-year old vessel since June of last year. Moore transferred to Maine after serving on an 87-footer in Virginia. He says considering the fact he's an outdoors man and originally from Ohio, the transfer request was not that much of a stretch.
Moore says one of the biggest challenges ice breaking in Maine is dealing with the ten to twelve-foot tides with strong currents. He says if you catch the ebb tide the ice generally flows down the river pretty easily but if you're breaking against a rising tide the ice is tough to move. Of course extreme temperatures also determine how difficult the job will be keeping the waterway tracks clear once their broken up.
When I asked Moore about any scary moments on the job he chuckled and said his inexperience as an ice-breaking Captain caused him to wake one morning only to discover his ice-breaking vessel was, well, stuck in the ice. He says that required a lot of patience and a few extra hours of labor for he and his crew to break free. He also mentioned a mission in which the stern of the Tackle was breached by ice, but he was not assigned to the cutter when that happened.
Keeping the river channels open is important for flood mitigation, especially along the Kennebec River where Augusta and Gardiner are so prone to flooding. That break out mission will take place in March and April as the weather demands. In the next few months keeping the Penobscot River free of ice will be important as cranes will be loaded onto barges at Cianbro in Brewer to sail down river for use in the demolition of the old Waldo-Hancock suspension bridge.