Coast Guard Sets "Winter Port Condition One," Cautions Boaters

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Captain of the Port has set “Winter Port Condition One”,” the status previously known as “Ice Condition Three” for the northern Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, warning boaters to use caution and be aware of ice formation.

Winter Port Condition One is set “when weather conditions are favorable for the formation of ice in navigable waters,” according to Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region.

M/V J. Millard Tawes, one of DNR’s four ice-breaking vessels.

The waterways within this region that typically ice up first include: the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal, upper Chesapeake Bay and upper Potomac River.

Smith Island is also reportedly dealing with icy waterways— The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sent buoy tender M/V J. Millard Tawes to Smith Island early Thursday morning, at the request of the ferry boats and a marine contractor, to clear ice from the channel into Ewell.

The 100-foot Tawes, which regularly clears ice between Crisfield and Smith Island, is one of DNR’s four ice-breaking vessels.

The Coast Guard asks all boat owners and operators, ship agents, marine facilities and marinas to report any ice conditions they see to the Sector Maryland-NCR command center at 410-576-2693 or by emailing [email protected]

The Coast Guard also reminds boaters to:

  • Check moorings frequently to ensure the vessel is secured.

  • Maintain engines on standby and ensure proper bridge watches are stood at all times.

  • Check sea chests regularly for ice buildup and precautions should be taken to ensure the sea chests are kept clear.

When the COTP restricts navigation due to ice, operating boats must meet minimum horsepower requirements and have the proper hull type, to be able to maneuver through the ice without needing to stop, back up, and ram the ice.

Ice related vessel and/or waterway restrictions are announced via Coast Guard broadcast notices to mariners, five times daily at 3 a.m., 7:05 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. local time on marine band radio VHF-FM channel 22A. Click here to check the status for local waterways anytime, or call the Sector Maryland-NCR ice line at 410-576-2682.

-Meg Walburn Viviano