Coast Guard’s Mackinaw Icebreaker Sets Sail

Even at 6.3 million pounds, this Big Mack is a bit slimmed down from its predecessor. But make no doubt about it: this is still one smashmouth brute of a ship.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s next major icebreaker to ply the Great Lakes is a month into her sea trials and is coming along nicely to what will be her next big test, the winter ice breaking season.

In April, the new Mackinaw was released from her construction berth at the Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wis. The icebreaker is spending the summer being put through a series of tests on the Great Lakes. In October, just before the start of the winter ice season, the cutter will be officially turned over to the Coast Guard, under the command of her first skipper, Cdr. Donald Triner.

The $90 million 240-foot Mackinaw is replacing her namesake, a larger ship also named Mackinaw, launched in 1944 to keep Great Lakes shipping lanes clear to make sure vital raw materials kept flowing to the Arsenal of Democracy in World War II. Both ships will work this winter, then the older one will be decommissioned.

With the new Mackinaw, it didn.t take long to decide on a name for this ship,. said Admiral Thomas Collins, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, .since the Mackinaw is an incredible institution on a 60-plus-year roll. We wanted to keep that going, so we have the new Mackinaw. It will help us continue our long and very proud history of sailing a major ice breaker on the Great Lakes.. The old Mackinaw is 290 feet long and was originally designed to be manned by a crew of more than 200.

Modern technology has allowed the ship to operate with a smaller crew in recent years, but the Coast Guard says 60 years of wear and tear and six decades of ideas and advances that could be rolled into a new ship make it time for the Coast Guard to change out its largest icebreaker on the Great Lakes.

The new Mackinaw is sleeker in design and officially will be delivered to the Coast Guard on Oct. 15. The official commissioning date has not been set. She will have a crew of eight officers and 38 enlisted personnel under the command of Triner. The new Mackinaw can cut through 10 feet of solid ice.

According to Coast Guard headquarters, she is built with 6.3 million pounds of steel, and her construction also includes 45 miles of wire, and 2.3 miles of fiber optic cables. She is powered by three Caterpillar diesel engines, has a 20-ton Appleton Crane for lifting and servicing aids to navigation, is equipped with an oil spill recovery system, has state of the art navigation, and communication and security systems.

In addition, she has been built to handle search and rescue operations, provide maritime law enforcement, and will be capable of responding to national security and defense needs.

Those abilities to perform different duties is a key plus for the modern Mackinaw, Admiral Collins said during the launching ceremony in Wisconsin in April.

One of the knocks against the old Mackinaw for years was that it was very well suited for breaking ice . and that was about it. In the summer months, the old Mackinaw basically became a floating public relations platform, unable to perform other functions.

The new Mackinaw is an excellent example of building a more ready and more capable 21st century Coast Guard,. Collins said. The new Mackinaw will be the envy of the fleet for years to come.. .All Coast Guard cutters are responsible to perform all the Coast Guard missions to the best of their abilities,. said USCG Lt. Erik Skow of Marinette, Wis.

The ship’s primary mission is indiciated by the color of the ship.s hull, he said, with white hull cutters as law enforcement ships, black hull cutters as buoy tenders, and the red hull cutters as icebreakers. Both the old and new Mackinaws sport a red hull.

The old Mackinaw will continue to operate until the new ship is in place. The 290-footer sails with a crew of 10 officers and 65 enlisted personnel under the command of Cdr. Joseph McGuiness. The older ship.s record is breaking through 15 feet of solid ice. It was built in the early 1940s by the Toledo Ship Building Co.

Like the old Mackinaw, the new ship will be homeported in Cheboygan, Mich.

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who represents northern and Upper Michigan in Congress, has introduced legislation allowing the Coast Guard to give the Mackinaw to the City of Cheboygan, where it would become a museum.

The conveyance of the Cutter Mackinaw to Cheboygan is both a tribute to the ship that protected Michigan.s waters and shores and cleared the ice paths for the nations. mariners as well as the Cheboygan area, which harbors the namesake of the cutter,. said Stupak. .I see no better way to honor the life and name of the cutter more than to retire it as a museum to the Mackinac Straits area.. A group in Duluth, Minn., is also seeking to gain possession of the ship as a museum.

Ice breaking on the Great Lakes is critical to the regional and national economy, Collins said. On average, $1 billion worth of cargo is transported on the Great Lakes during the ice season. Open water helps to employ 100,000 steel workers, 8,600 iron ore miners, more than 2,000 great lakes sailors, and thousands of support jobs, he said.

Old vs. New:

Launched: 1944
Length: 290 feet
Beam: 75 feet
Draft: 19 feet
Crew: 65 enlisted personnel and 10 officers

Launched: 2005
Length: 240 feet
Beam: 58 feet
Draft: 16 feet
Crew: 38 enlisted personnel and 8 officers

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