The Maryland Department of Natural Resources this week dispatched its vessel, the J. Millard Tawes, to break ice on the water route to Smith Island, opening the vital link between the island and nearby Crisfield Harbor.
Smith Island residents are dependent on a small fleet of boats for necessary supplies and transportation. The department keeps in close contact with ferry operators to ensure they can transit the water safely.
The 75-year old former U.S. Coast Guard cutter was specially-designed to operate in shallow water. Stationed on the mainland, the Tawes and its five-member crew spend most of the year performing buoy tending operations in support of Maryland’s boating and fishing industry.
The department has four boats that can break up ice around the Chesapeake Bay. Cleared passageways allow for watermen, boat and barge captains and marine crews to continue their commerce and work on the water throughout the winter.