A new Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) icebreaker will become the next wintertime lifeline for Smith Islanders. M/V Eddie Somers is named for the longtime captain of the previous icebreaker on the Crisfield-Smith Island Route. Captain Somers retired in 2018 after 25 years at the helm of the J. Millard Tawes.
During winter cold spells, Smith Island can get so frozen in that supply and shuttle boats can’t provide necessary supplies and transportation. That’s where the icebreaker boat comes in, clearing a path to allow all food, fuel, medicine, and emergency transport to and from the island. It will also provide service, when requested, to Tangier Island, which faces the same challenges.
The Tawes and its crew performed ice breaking duties for nearly 50 years with DNR, after being built in 1941 as a Coast Guard buoy tender and retrofitted to break ice in the 1970s. Unlike the Tawes, the new Eddie Somers is purpose-built as an icebreaker.
The M/V Somers is 94 feet long, weighs 195 tons, and produces 1,500 shaft horsepower. Its hull and running gear are fortified for ice operations, and it has a shallow draft for going inside rivers and reaching tricky areas of the Bay. The boat additionally has a 5-ton knuckle boom crane for buoy and debris removal applications.
The Eddie Somers was christened at shipbuilder Blount Boats Inc. in Warren, R.I. It will sail later this year to its home port at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, where DNR will hold a commissioning ceremony.
The boat is a fitting tribute to Capt. Somers, says DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, as it’s tradition to name vessels after employees with exemplary years of service. “Capt. Eddie Somers has done so much for his community, Smith Island, and the State of Maryland,” she says. Governor Larry Hogan named Somers an Admiral of the Chesapeake when he retired.
-Meg Walburn Viviano