They’re officially called Patrol Craft Fast (PCFs), but the men who served on them during Vietnam have always known them as swift boats. The Navy first used the swift boats in the coastal waters to intercept seaborne supplies on their way to South Vietnam. As the war continued, the boats moved into the deltas to conduct gunfire support, troop insertion, raids, and evacuation operations.
Two of these boats were donated to the newly formed Republic of Malta in 1971 to use as a part of their Maritime Squadron. After 40 years of coast-guard duty, Malta retired the boats from service and in 2011 donated one of them to the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
1492 N. Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego
The Swift Boat Sailors Association brought the swift boat to San Diego to be restored and operated on San Diego Bay. Now, museum visitors will experience the sound and power of two V12 diesels delivering 980 horsepower for high-speed runs through the bay on PCF 816 while retired swift boat sailors and docents talk about what it was like to be a crewman in Vietnam.
The 75-minute tour heads under Coronado Bay Bridge, passes Naval Base San Diego and then Naval Amphibious Base. It returns to the museum by way of the aircraft carrier basin and Naval Air Station North Island.
Tours are $10 per person (or take the 2-for-1 special, Swift Boat Tour plus Pilot Bay Cruise for $13), plus Maritime Museum of San Diego admission. Tickets are only available at the museum, located at 1492 North Harbor Drive.