Twenty months after its San Diego arrival, a Vietnam-era swift boat is shipshape for paying passengers.

On Saturday, P24 will begin taking visitors for rides around San Diego Bay, the Maritime Museum has announced.

Vietnam-era swift boat at San Diego Maritime Museum. Image via YouTube

Mark Gallant, project director for the restoration effort, told 10News last year that it took roughly $120,000 to get the boat to San Diego and predicted it would cost $100,000 to get it back in working order.

The 75-minute ride departs the museum at 10:30 a.m and 1 p.m. The boat will run weekends only, but Memorial Day weekend rides will be offered Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Prices are $12 a person in addition to museum admission. The museum is at 1492 N. Harbor Drive.
 
Formally called Patrol Craft Fast, the United States Navy’s PCFs were first put into service in 1965 when American sailors used them to patrol the coastline of South Vietnam to prevent sea infiltration of soldiers and munitions from North Vietnam.

Such counterinsurgency missions had to be executed quickly, and hence, the crafts were nicknamed “swift boats” for their speed and agility in moving in and out and harm’s way. In preparation for war, PCF training exercises were conducted on San Diego Bay at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.
 
The 50-foot swift boat acquired by the Maritime Museum was originally donated by the Navy to Malta’s Maritime Squadron in 1971. It continued in service to that country until being retired in 2010.

The following year, Malta’s minister of defense, Vanessa Frazier, conveyed her deep acknowledgement of America’s veterans with the gesture to return the boat to the Swift Boat Sailors Association. The group then sought the help of the Maritime Museum, famed for its reputation for ship preservation.
 
“This acquisition is a special opportunity to educate Maritime Museum visitors about the significant history of swift boats and the brave Vietnam veterans associated with them,” said Ray Ashley, CEO of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. “We honor their service, courage and commitment and are proud to support this initial restoration that will provide an active, hands-on experience in San Diego for many years to come.”
 
About 3,500 swift boat sailors served as crew or support personnel from 1965 to 1973. At the museum, the fully operational Swift Boat will be used to carry passengers from the Museum on narrated tours of naval facilities. Former swift boat sailors with current U.S. Coast Guard licenses will be invited to command those tours, whenever possible.
 
“Swift boats are linked to an important time in our nation’s history and we are pleased that the courageous efforts of our Swift Boat brothers will be recognized in such an authentic and symbolic way,” said Virgil Erwin, a Swift Boat veteran, SBSA member and Museum trustee. “This is a live, functioning exhibit and we encourage and appreciate contributions to support its ongoing maintenance through donations.”

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