But during the freezing winter months, these companies must rely on the Coast Guard to cut through the ice on the river and keep their business flowing. During a freezing Maine winter, it’s normal for a foot of ice to form over the Penobscot river. ":Ya know, single digit highs with a lot of wind makes things difficult. Pretty much as you’re breaking the ice it’s freezing right behind you.":
For the crew of the coast guard cutter bridle, the mission is to cut through the ice and keep the river and commerce flowing for companies like Cianbro. ":One of the things that we need to have is the ability to ship the product to our client where ever that client might be… We have a facility that, because of the coast guard, has a water way that’s open to the Atlantic Ocean.":
Company officials say if the river wasn’t clear, they could lose business – and lost business could mean lost jobs.
":This winter we’re gonna maintain a track because there are some scheduled barges to come up to the Cianbro facility and also as a preventative measure for flood relief.":
The cutter cracks the ice using the front of the boat, the wake helps lift the ice away, then the tide pushes the pieces into the open ocean. How quick the water freezes determines how often the cutter goes out, but high winds, freezing temps, and icy water can be a dangerous mix. ":When you get the wind like this in the open water, when it’s this cold, you have dangerous freezing spray… We have to assess the risk, and if the risk is too great for our personnel or equipment, we’re going to stay tied to the pier.":
But for these guys, taking the risk is often part of the job, and a day spent cutting the icy waters of the Penobscot means business as usual for many maine companies.