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Ship Tours


By Alex Doty


If there’s one thing that stands out at the Coast Guard Festival, it’s the variety of U.S. Coast Guard ships that come to port during the weeklong celebration.

This year is no exception, as a slate of Coast Guard cutters are expected to visit Grand Haven. Grand Haven will host the cutters Hollyhock, Bristol Bay and Biscayne Bay, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Laurentian.

The ship tours are free, so bring your family and friends down to Escanaba Park to see them as they arrive in port on Monday, July 28, at approximately 1 p.m.

Here’s a little bit about the ships available for tour:

USCGC Hollyhock

The Hollyhock is a $29 million cutter that was launched Jan. 25, 2003. She is 225 feet long and powered by two diesel engines that turn a single controllable pitch propeller.

The Hollyhock is also equipped with bow and stern thrusters, in addition to a 20-ton hydraulic, 60-foot telescoping beam Appleton crane. She carries a crew of eight officers and 42 enlisted personnel.

USCGC Bristol BayIMG_5289

Built in 1978, the Bristol Bay’s primary responsibility is opening and maintaining icebound shipping lanes in the Great Lakes. Bay-class tugs are designed to continuously break at least 20 inches of hard, freshwater ice.

The ships can break more than 3 feet of ice by backing and ramming. The Bay tugs have a special hull air lubrication system that helps extract the ship from thick ice and improves ice-breaking ability at slower speeds.

The ship also performs missions such as search and rescue, marine environmental protection, law enforcement, and port security and safety.

In August 1991, the Bristol Bay became the first Bay-class tug to receive a barge specially designed to perform aids-to-navigation work. The 120-foot-long barge works with the ship to service more than 160 aids to navigation each year.

USCGC Biscayne Bay

Commissioned in 1979, the Biscayne Bay is an icebreaking harbor tug designed to meet the Coast Guard’s domestic icebreaking responsibilities.

Biscayne Bay’s primary mission is maintaining tracks in the connecting waterways in the Great Lakes and assisting vessels through the icebound shipping lanes. Primary areas of operation are the Straits of Mackinac and the St. Marys River. The cutter also frequently operates in the St. Clair/Detroit River system; Green Bay, Wis.; Duluth, Minn.; and Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The R/V Laurentian 

The Laurentian is an 80-foot, steel-hulled vessel built in 1974 for use by the University of Michigan. In 2002, a partnership agreement between the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and the university provided for a 15-year lease, whereby the lab assumed responsibility for the vessel’s operation, maintenance and scheduling of ship time.

While the ship now primarily supports Great Lakes research missions, the agreement also offers vessel access and support to University of Michigan scientists.