Breaking the Ice: Aboard a US Coast Guard cutter

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KINGSTON, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Welcome aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay (WTGB 107). Every winter the crew makes their way up and down the Hudson River to ensure they have the security, energy, and emergency resources they need by providing icebreaking maintenance.

As the seventh of nine Bay Class cutters, the Penobscot Bay has firm roots in the Hudson River Watershed and surrounding area. The Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters is the Coast Guard providing icebreaking and aids to navigation maintenance.

The crew of the Penobscot Bay invited NEWS10 on their 4-hour journey from Kingston to Saugerties to show us the importance of domestic icebreaking.

“We want to ensure that the people in the Northeast, New England, and New York gets the energy, the security they need. We want to ensure that the waterways are open for commercial traffic,” said Commanding Officer Lt. Patrick Bennett. 

Ice-breaking operations make it easier to navigate and minimize waterway closures. Executive Officer Lt. Gregory Schmidt says it’s all about clearing a path.

“It is awesome. We actually get to see the results of breaking ice. Many times we are assisting other vessels, and we actually get to see our work right then and there,” said Lt. Schmidt.

The US Coast Guard says going up the Hudson River on Saturday, they cut through 3 to 5 inches of ice.

“Our cutter can break continuously up to two feet. If we are using the tactic of backing and ramming, we could do up to three feet,” Lt. Schmidt.

The 19 crew members of the Penobscot Bay serve as guardians of the Hudson River. They are also one of the only ice breakers protecting the waterways.

While the conditions can get extreme, the crews says they never quit on their mission.

 “The Coast Guard has put trust and faith in us to do our job. So that’s what we are here to do. We are here to do our mission, and to ensure that the Hudson River remains open for commercial traffic,” said Lt. Bennett.

On average, the Coast Guard assisted 100 commercial vessels that became stuck in ice. Sometimes the number of vessels assisted is more than 300 a year.

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