– By Steve West –
The Coast Guard’s St. Ignace based Biscayne Bay broke the ice in Paradise Bay on April 3rd, one day later than planned this year due to her heavy work load in the St Mary’s River. The Emerald Isle made her first run of the season on Thursday April 4th.
Commissioned in 1979, the cutter Biscayne Bay is the fourth vessel of the Coast Guard’s 140 ft “Bay” class. This class of icebreaking harbor tug was designed to replace an aging fleet of harbor tugs and to meet the Coast Guard’s domestic icebreaking responsibilities well into the twenty first century.
Her primary mission is maintaining tracks in the connecting waterways in the Great Lakes and assisting vessels through the icebound shipping lanes of the Great Lakes. Her primary areas of operation are the Straits of Mackinac, northern Lake Huron and Lake Michigan including Beaver Island.
Biscayne Bay was designed with many innovations aimed at increasing her icebreaking capabilities. This vessel has greater horsepower, displacement, and a wider beam than the older vessels it replaced. She is equipped with a hull air lubrication system, commonly referred to as a “bubbler” system. The bubbler forces large quantities of low pressure air through ports along both sides of the cutter’s hull that greatly reduces the friction caused by the contact of ice and snow on the cutter’s hull for more efficient operation.
For more of early spring’s arrival on Beaver Island, see the May issue of NorthernISlander