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Divers Weld New Life into Coast Guard Cutter

Updated: 04/07/2014 6:16 PM
Created: 04/07/2014 5:29 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Divers took a dip in the icy Duluth Harbor Monday afternoon to make rudder repairs to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay.

It's just another day at the office, but in a wetsuit for James Morris and his diving crew. He said it is tough diving into an icy harbor.

“Fighting through, a lot of times, in the dark with limited visibility and being cold or every sense you have is on overload because you're not in your original environment,” Morris said.

The divers were welding some bolts onto the rudder of the Morro Bay. Morris said they have dealt with ice before, but it's special here in the Northland.

“We've broken ice before in Baltimore, Philadelphia to dive, but the thickness of it is a little different to us here,” Morris said.

Thankfully the dive suit can combat the frigid waters in Duluth.

“We have hot water pumps to the diver so being cold is not an issue at all,” Morris said.

The Coast Guard still doesn't know why the rudder bolts broke, but the ship's Executive Officer Dan Swaim said the ice has been rough on everything this winter.

“My captain likes to say that it's like living in a rock tumbler. If you can picture a cement mixer full of gravel that's what it sounds like day in and day out when you're trying to sleep. It can wear on you. You can get pretty tired. It's mentally exhausting,” Lt. j.g. Swaim said.

He said the crew was thankful for a break, but after a week docked next to the DECC they are itching to get back on the lake.

“We're all looking forward to getting the repairs done and getting back out there and getting into the fight because we have our shipmates that are out there that are breaking ice right now,” Swaim said.

He said if the repairs go smoothly the Morro Bay could leave harbor on Tuesday evening.

The Morro Bay was commissioned in 1980. Swaim said the rudder repair and some upgrades planned for this summer should keep it sailing for another 15 years.

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