Thursday, July 24, 2014

News
CBS58 Exclusive: Sturgeon Bay on An Ice Breaker
by Michael Schlesinger


(Sturgeon Bay)--Talk about an icebreaker. Wisconsin's harsh winter is keeping a Coast Guard crew very busy. It's Sturgeon Bay like you've never seen or heard it before. No matter the conditions, the Coast Guard cutter "Mobile Bay" chugs along to keep the Sturgeon Bay shipping channel open. Joining them on board this week for a journey few have taken were CBS 58's Michael Schlesinger and chief photojournalist Tom Gifford. They were on the tug boat for about three hours.

By most accounts, this 140 foot long ice-breaking tug boat is modest in size. But what she lacks in dimension she really makes up in power and stamina. The mission is to clear a path in the shipping channel some 35 feet wide. The extreme ice, at least several thick feet deep in spots, is a direct result of this winter's harsh cold. It definitely makes their job last longer.

Commander John Stone is the tour guide of sorts helping the CBS58 team understand this entire process. We started our journey with an important briefing. It did take a while to leave since the 670-ton ship was "iced in" at port. However, an intricate system called a "bubbler" helped propel the ship to where we needed to go. In the channel, it's slow and steady. We were going less than 5 mph. In fact there's nothing haphazard about this assignment. The process has to be very methodical since any large wake could disrupt recreational fishing or snowboarding. And in case you didn't know, there are no blades breaking up the ice. Instead, the force and movement of the ship cause it to occur.

The ship has been around since the late 1970's. There's no retirement in its near future. The ice cutter is also involved in search and rescue operations during the winter. Also, it's interesting to mention, in the warmer months, the tug actually pushes larger barges responsible for servicing buoys.