Breaking the Ice

Ice is proving to be a problem from roads to waterways this winter. You may not realize it, but the Connecticut River is used by some boats year-round to deliver heating oil and some construction equipment.

So a Coast Guard crew onboard the Mallard is doing what it can to break the ice along the Connecticut River to allow that traffic to pass through.

News Channel 8’s Kent Pierce went with the Coast Guard today on a mission along a section of the river in Portland.

“As long as we’ve got ice up here, we’ll clear the Connecticut River,” said U.S. Coastguard Chief Phil Kibby. He said the ice between Cromwell and Portland is 12-18 inches thick in places.

“I’ve gone through the records for the past few years, and we’ve already exceeded the ice hours that we’ve had the past 3 years,” said Kibby. “So it’s been at least 3 years since we had ice this thick on the river.”

The boat throws a lot of water out the back. It does this because the boat itself is only 19 feet wide. You don’t want to break only 19 feet. You want the wake and thrust of the boat to break ice on the sides as well.

No matter how cold the weather, Chief Kibby and his crew will be out breaking up the ice, no matter how hard it is to do.

“There are times we’ll stop, back up, hit it again and keep at it until we get it done,” Kibby said. “It can take us an hour to go a mile but eventually we’ll get there.”

To keep the river clear for all those barges, the crew will work eight hour days until the weather warms up.

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