ROCKLAND, Maine — There were hugs and smiles warm enough to melt the thickest ice Tuesday morning as the 18 crew members of the Thunder Bay were welcomed home after a four-month tour to the Great Lakes region.
The 700-ton, 140-foot-long Coast Guard icebreaker arrived under sunny skies. Ship Cmdr. Jerry Smith said that the crew made good time on its return from keeping shipping lanes open on the Great Lakes. With the scheduled arrival set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, the crew was able to slow down as it approached Rockland Harbor.
Smith said it gave him time to talk with members of the crew for the final time before completion of the mission that began Nov. 29 when they departed from Rockland.
“It was amazing to get back and see the ferries and the lobster boats,” Smith said.
The Thunder Bay commander was anxious to get home to be with his wife, Heather, who is expecting their first child. He noted he was able to get home about a month ago for the first sonogram of the baby.
Chief Boatswain’s Mate Matt Deane was greeted by his wife, Heather, and children Mason and Ava of Rockport.
“Absolutely, I’m happy,” Heather said of seeing her husband after the long mission.
Capt. Christopher Roberge, the commander of the Coast Guard northern New England sector, spoke during a brief ceremony aboard the ice cutter. He praised the crew for its efforts and noted that while the Thunder Bay spent 200 hours plus breaking ice on the Great Lakes, there was no need for ice breaking locally because of the warm winter.
The mission was Seaman Apprentice Brian McGoff’s first with the Coast Guard. He was one of the few crew members who did not return to Rockland during the four months.
The Boston resident was welcomed back to Rockland by his mother, Peggy McGoff of Boston.
The mother said she was “big time” happy to see her son after the long absence.
A statement from Rear Adm. Daniel Neptun, commander of the First Coast Guard District, was read to the crew during the on-vessel ceremony.
“The crew of the Thunder Bay demonstrated exceptional seamanship and ship handling skills and immediately made significant contributions to the mission,” Neptun said. “Their efforts ensured the critical commercial shipping routes of the Great Lakes remained open for delivery of economically vital cargo.”