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Eastern Shore

New icebreaker for Maryland’s Smith Island ready as winter lifeline

CRISFIELD — As temperatures plunge and area waterways get icy, the Eddie Somers icebreaker is ready for action.

M/V Eddie Somers, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ newest icebreaker, was commissioned into service in September by Gov. Larry Hogan and is a vital winter lifeline for residents of Smith Island.

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DNR said in a release that the Eddie Somers and its three sister ships in its Hydrographic Operations team are ready to clear paths on the state’s waterways.

The Eddie Somers, which serves the Crisfield-Smith Island route, was recently recognized by the noted trade publication “WorkBoat” as one of the 10 significant new vessels in the United States.

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The vessel is named after former DNR Capt. Eddie Somers, who retired in 2018 after 25 years as captain of the J. Millard Tawes, which the Somers replaced.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources christened the newest boat in its Hydrographic Operations fleet, naming it after a longtime captain of the Crisfield-Smith Island route the boat will serve. The M/V Eddie Somers was christened in March 2022 by DNR officials and its namesake at shipbuilder Blount Boats Inc. in Warren, Rhode Island.

The M/V Eddie Somers measures 94 feet long, weighs 195 tons and produces 1,500 shaft horsepower. Its hull and running gear are fortified for ice operations. The boat additionally has a 5-ton knuckle boom crane for buoy and debris removal applications.

Unlike the retrofitted Tawes, the M/V Somers was designed and purpose-built by DNR for the services it will provide.

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The boat will serve as the primary icebreaking asset for Crisfield Harbor and Smith Island, in addition to placing buoys and performing other functions.

As was the M/V Tawes, the M/V Somers will also be a lifeline to Smith Island when the waters surrounding it freeze over, with the boat clearing a path for supply and shuttle boats.

The Hydrographic Operations boats are shallow draft, meaning they can get into rivers and shallow areas of the bay.

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The other DNR boats are:

  • M/V J.C. Widener, a 73-foot buoy tender that serves Annapolis Harbor, Back Creek, and portions of Spa Creek and Magothy, Severn, South, and West rivers.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, with the help of the John C. Widener, a buoy tender and icebreaker, breaks up ice in the Annapolis harbor.
  • M/V A.V. Sandusky, an 80-foot buoy serving Kent Narrows, Eastern Bay, Tilghman Creek, Rock Hall and portions of the Chester and Miles rivers.
  • M/V H.J. Elser, a 50-foot utility vessel with icebreaking capability serving Knapps Narrows on Tilghman Island; and portions of the Choptank and Tred Avon rivers, Broad Creek, Town Creek, Easton Point Landing, Cambridge Creek/Harbor, the Little Choptank River, Slaughter Creek, Chapel Cove, and Madison Bay.

The newest boat in Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ fleet, the M/V Eddie Somers, was christened in March 2022 and commissioned into service in a September 2022 ceremony. It serves the Crisfield-Smith Island area.

DNR advises that before freezing conditions, commercial vessel operators move their vessels to areas near the icebreakers or Natural Resources Police patrol boat stations.


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