"Workhorse of the Lakes"
The USCGC BRISTOL BAY is one of just two Bay-class cutters that work in conjunction with a special barge. BRISTOL BAY the second of the U.S. Coast Guard's 140-foot icebreaking tugs. She is named after the body of water formed by the Alaskan peninsula which empties into the Bering Sea. BRISTOL BAY was built by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Co. in 1978. She was commissioned in Detroit in 1979.
Designed by U.S. Coast Guard engineers, 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, 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.