USCGC Morro Bay: Doing the job we were sent to do…

Rendezvous with the CGC Katmai Bay by Lt. Cmdr Douglas Wyatt.

Continuing the CGC Morro Bay series this is entry number fifteen. To see all of the Morro Bay’s posts go here! Also remember to check out PAD NY’s FB page and the FB page for the USCGC Morro Bay for similar content.

Morro Bay Entry 15
This is an excerpt from the underway diary of Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Wyatt, commanding officer of the Morro Bay

6 Jan, Thursday: I went to sleep knowing that we were drifting. What I didn’t expect when I awoke was finding out that we had reversed direction twice. We started out traveling northwest toward the nearest shore. Around 11 p.m., we started going southeast and at 2 a.m., northwest again. It’s like the tide shifted — the only thing is, there’s no tide. Both periods where we were moving northwest we were going against the wind and current. The only thing I can think of that may explain it would be a rotary current caused by the water striking Point Pelee and rebounding back to the northwest. At any rate we successfully rode the drifting ice floe through the night without incident.

Underway at 8 a.m., along the up bound Lake Carriers Association (LCA) and picked up escort of the down bound Canadian Cargo Ship CSL Niagara ( at the Detroit River. The transit was routine, the ship slowed to two knots in the thickest jammed ice, but did not get stopped.

Earlier in the week our track (cleared path) was holding fairly well, it slowly shifted to the north of the LCA but ships could find it and be confident that it was navigable. Not true today. None of the tracks are holding. We re-ran the up bound track after the escort was complete and there was no indication that we had been through that area. The story of the shifting ice got worse when we started looking for a place to stop for the night. There’s plenty of ice but it’s all thin and can’t hold the ship against the wind and current. There are plenty of windrows and rubble fields of jammed ice but they are all drifting. To make it even more interesting, the winds have started gusting at 30 knots, double what this afternoon’s forecast was calling for. It will be another less-than-completely restful night of drifting with the ice — at least the ship’s quiet when we drift, otherwise the crew wouldn’t get any sleep.

7 Jan, Friday: Today turned out to be a rather easy day. We drifted almost two miles before the ice field fetched up on something and stopped moving. Underway at sunrise, there were three vessels moving through the western basin. We headed toward an up bound vessel that was having difficulty maintaining speed through the ice, but he waited for a down bound ship to pass his position and got back up to speed following that ship’s track and was long gone before we could get into position to assist. We ended the day running the LCA’s to try and establish tracks, but the ice is still shifting so it collapsed behind us.

As sunset arrived we were hove to again, at least the ice is heavier today and we did not drift. At 9 p.m. an up bound vessel was beset (stuck) in the ice about two miles south of us and requesting assistance. Normally we don’t start helping a vessel at night unless there is some urgent need such as shifting ice is carrying them toward a rock and they will run aground if we don’t help them right away. The reason for this policy is rather simple — ice breaking close to another vessel is dangerous and night operations close to another vessel is doubly dangerous. The situation with this particular beset vessel was not urgent and visibility was about 200 feet in heavy snow so I informed the master of the vessel that unless something changed I’d be underway at first light to help him move through the ice. Needless to say, the he was not pleased to hear that bit of news but it ended up being a moot point because less than an hour after the initial call the ship was underway again under their own power.

8 Jan, Saturday: The ice is definitely getting thicker and it has a 2-inch accumulation of snow. Heavy snow makes our job more difficult because it increases the friction against the hull, requiring more horsepower to keep moving, but two inches isn’t bad at all.

The Rudder Angle Indicator (RAI) has developed a problem. It’s a gauge in the pilot house that lets us know when the rudder is in the position we want it to be. It’s responding slowly and sometimes not moving at all. After initial troubleshooting, the consensus from the engineers is that all the vibrations from the last few days has loosened up a connection somewhere in the system. Unfortunately, they can’t work on repairing it while we’re underway so it will have to wait until we secure for the night.

We transited the up bound LCA to the Detroit River and picked up an escort of the tug Rebecca Lynn with a fuel barge. It looks like the tracks are finally starting to hold and they got through without any problems. The Algocanada ( transited down bound making almost 13 knots, so we just stayed out of her way. Shortly after we hove to the Algomarine ( went by up bound while the John G. Munson ( and the CSL Assiniboine ( passed by down bound to finish out the traffic for the evening. The engineers spent the evening working on the RAI but it looks like the entire bridge mount will have to be removed and disassembled. It will have to wait until our next port call.

9 Jan, Sunday: At 2 a.m. the motor vessel Sam Laud ( was beset two miles from us and requesting assistance, they are not in danger and the situation is not urgent, the bridge watch will monitor to make sure nothing changes.

At 7:30 a.m. we’re underway at first light headed to meet the Sam Laud. The situation isn’t as bad as it could be. They got out of the track in the dark and were stopped by the heavier ice. We ran past them to break up the ice between the ship and the track and had them back up to clear the plug of ice at their bow. After our second pass to loosen up the ice further, they start coming ahead and were soon moving at 10 knots, headed for the Detroit River. We escorted them for about an hour to ensure they didn’t have any more problems, and then stopped to monitor the progress of the next up bound vessel (they made it just fine).

The CCGS Griffon ( returned to the western basin from Lake St Clair. We transited to Toledo, mooring just after sunset. The crew gets a night ashore in another new town and we’ll take care of logistics tomorrow to re-supply the ship.

Copyright © 2007-2011; This post was released on 15 January 2011 at 09:03R. (Digital Fingerprint: 5e6541bd23rre ( )
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