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The Mighty Icebreaker “Mackinaw” – Queen of the Great Lakes

January 9, 2015

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.” ~ Sinclair Lewis

Members of the United States Coast Guard are our everyday heroes — protecting, enforcing, searching, rescuing, and maintaining, pretty much everything maritime related — quietly carrying out those duties with little fanfare.  The USCG provides and extremely important and valued service to The Great Lakes States, especially ice cutting during the winter months; and those who carry out their USCG duties on an icebreaker during the winter have my utmost respect.  There are all types of USCG ships, but to me the ice cutters, tasked with keeping channels and harbors open to navigation during harsh winter weather, top the list.  And I am very proud to know that Michigan is the home to the USCGC Mackinaw, both the legendary and retired WAGB-83 and the new kid on the block WLBB-30!

The original USCGC Mackinaw, WAGB-83, which was launched on March 4, 1944 and was commissioned on December 20, 1944.  The 290-foot vessel, known as the “Queen of the Great Lakes” was specifically designed for icebreaking in the Great Lakes.  The northern Michigan Lake Huron river town of Cheboygan, Michigan was its home port until it was decommissioned on June 10, 2006, after 62 years of taming the harsh, wintery Great Lakes.

As a youngster vacationing in Cheboygan, I had the privilege of touring WAGB-83.  As an adult, I was once again able to tour the vessel, which is now permanently docked in Mackinaw City, Michigan, and is known as The Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.  Below are a few of my photos of this legendary cutter.  It looks like the vessel was refurbished from a white cutter of the past to the red cutter of the present but I don’t know when.  The photos from 1970 are some of my earliest photographs.

USCGC Mackinaw WAGB-83 docked at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 1970

USCGC Mackinaw WAGB-83 docked at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 1970

USCGC Mackinaw WAGB-83 docked at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 1970

USCGC Mackinaw WAGB-83 docked at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 1970

USCGC Mackinaw WAGB-83 docked at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 1979

USCGC Mackinaw WAGB-83 docked at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 1979

The decommissioned WAGB-83, now known as the Mackinaw Maritime Museum,  docked at its permanent home in Mackinaw City in 2011.

The decommissioned WAGB-83, now known as the Mackinaw Maritime Museum, docked at its permanent home in Mackinaw City in 2011.

The decommissioned WAGB-83, now known as the Mackinaw Maritime Museum,  docked at its permanent home in Mackinaw City in 2013.

The decommissioned WAGB-83, now known as the Mackinaw Maritime Museum, docked at its permanent home in Mackinaw City in 2013.

On the same day WAGB-83 was decommissioned, the smaller, more efficient, multipurpose USCGC Mackinaw WLBB-30 was commissioned.  In addition to its heavy icebreaking duties, the 240-foot vessel performs “Aids to Navigation” duties on The Great Lakes.  Below are a couple of photos of WLBB-30 while docked in the Cheboygan River.

USCGC Mackinaw WLBB-30 at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 2011.

USCGC Mackinaw WLBB-30 at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 2011.

 

USCGC Mackinaw WLBB-30 at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 2013.

USCGC Mackinaw WLBB-30 at its homeport in Cheboygan, Michigan in 2013.

While you are not able to tour WLBB-30 when it is docked in Cheboygan, you do have that opportunity while it is docked in Grand Haven, Michigan during the annual Coast Guard Festival every summer.

#PureMichigan #USCGMackinaw #Icebreakers

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