Nerve Center of the Mackinaw
The Mackinaw was built in 1944 to help speed shipping during the later years of World War II. On the bridge, officers in their early 20s control the ship’s movement and supervise the watch. The enlisted crew members steering the Mackinaw can be as young as 18 or 19. The same age group is found in the engine rooms and other departments. The math is easy: the Mackinaw’s young, enthusiastic work force is charged with operating a ship more than twice as old as they are.
“My job is to coach and instruct a team of young people to work together and complete a task. I let them take risks, challenge them, but keep them out of trouble,” explains Nickerson, who’s been the Mackinaw’s captain for more than two years. “A lot of them may not have joined the Coast Guard to go on an icebreaker. But when they get here, they find it is pretty neat stuff.
“Any time you work up close with a ship it is exciting,” he elaborates. “These ships are huge, you have large objects moving at the same time close aboard and you have ice forces that are tremendous, handed down from Mother Nature.”
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