Friday, February 04, 2005
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw has returned to port after 10 days of icebreaking duties in the Straits of Mackinac and the St. Mary's River. Although the chance to get home for a break was welcomed by the crew, the work of the giant icebreaker was actually cut short by a mechanical problem on board. One of the Mackinaw's three boilers is in need of replacement, and parts were ordered while underway. Boiler No. 1 developed a 11/8-inch crack in the pre-heating firebox section. "The ship can operate normally with two boilers and that handles our heating system and all that we need at sea," explained Ensign James Conner, the Mackinaw's public affairs officer. "The precautions were taken so we weren't put in a bad spot if something happened to one of the other boilers. According to Conner, the Mackinaw crew found the ordered parts waiting upon its return, and immediately began repairs. "Our maintenance period should be completed by Thursday," he stated. "After that we're good to go again." Conner reported "variable ice conditions" in the Straits of Mackinac, where the giant icebreaker consistently worked to keep a track open for passing vessels. "It's always changing," he said, "some days the ice is hard as a rock and some days we encountered open water here and there. We saw open water across Lake Michigan beginning to the southwest of Lansing Shoals. There was thin ice east of Mackinac Island above Bois Blanc Island all the way to Detour passage." Conner noted that ice coverage was "pretty consistent" up the St. Mary's River.
U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw