Coast Guard Cutter Breaks Ice in Hudson River
The 65-foot Coast Guard ice breaking tug Line was underway for its daily icebreaking mission at dawn, passing by the lighthouse on its way out of the creek and into the river. Lately, the Bayonne, N.J.-based cutter Line is spending the night at the Saugerties station, tied alongside the cutter Wire. The Line and the Wire are two of a regional Coast Guard fleet of three 65-foot tugs and three 140-foot icebreakers keeping the shipping channel open in the wintertime. The tugs can break ice 18 inches thick while the larger icebreakers can plow through 30-inch ice. The shipping channel is vital for shipment of home heating oil, which is transported mainly by barge to river communities such as Albany and Troy. Each year, hundreds of heating oil deliveries are made via the river. Almost every day during the winter, I notice at least one or two fuel barges passing by the lighthouse. Without the work of Coast Guard cutters, barges could get trapped by the ice, causing heating oil shortages to homes in the Hudson Valley. As crucial as icebreaking is for shipping, iceboating enthusiasts are not exactly thrilled by seeing river ice broken apart by the Coast Guard. Historically, before icebreakers, shipping ceased in the winter. Iceboaters had the run of the river and could sail for miles on top of continuous sheets of ice. Nowadays, they have to confine themselves to isolated coves and bays away from the shipping channel and out of reach of icebreakers.