The Coast Guard says the Healy and the Russian tanker have learned to adapt and have fallen into a routine -- with the Healy breaking ice for the Renda and circling back when the ice closes in again.
“That’s the kind of dance that they’re doing up there now,” said Capt. Jason Fosdick, who is headquartered at the Coast Guard’s Anchorage office. “They get moving. They hit a more challenging area. So the Renda stops and the Healy has to turn around, break them out and they get going again.”
Coast Guard spokesman David Mosley says ice breaking is an exercise in patience.
“You take your winds as they come,” said Mosley. “They might be small ones. They might be big ones. It’s day by day. You have to work with the elements as you encounter them.”
The elements continue to be challenging. The forecast for Nome puts temperatures in the minus 15 to 30 below range.
But the Coast Guard has begun preparations for the Renda’s arrival. It has a team on the ground in Nome, encouraging people to avoid traveling on the shore ice as the Healy and the Renda approach the city.
The main concern: that the icebreaking vessels might cause fractures in the ice near the shore, which would destabilize the ice and make it dangerous to cross.
“We strongly encourage residents to remain on shore and avoid transiting on the ice, as the ships transit in and out of the shore fast ice -- until the ice has time to re-freeze,” said Lt. Nicole Auth, the Coast Guard safety zone coordinator in Nome.
The Coast Guard is also asking people to get their fishing and crabbing gear out of the way, prior to the Renda and Healy’s arrival, to avoid damaging it.
Although Nome residents are looking forward to seeing the first ever winter delivery of fuel to their community across sea ice, they’ll be kept at a distance. The Coast Guard is imposing restrictions on how close people can get to fuel transfer operations -- 50 yards around delivery hoses and 100 yards from the Renda.
Depending on the weather, it could be several days or more before the Renda and the Healy accomplish their mission. Both the Coast Guard and Vitus Marine have stopped giving out estimated arrival times.