Tour of San Diego Navy ships from old Swift Boat.

The restored Swift Boat, PCF-816 approaches the Maritime Museum of San Diego on downtown's waterfront.
The restored Swift Boat, PCF-816 approaches the Maritime Museum of San Diego on downtown’s waterfront.

Last weekend I embarked on a very unique boat adventure on San Diego Bay. Enjoying sunshine and a cool ocean breeze, I sat outside on the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s restored Swift Boat, and took in various interesting sights during an approximately one hour tour.

PCF-816 is a small Mark ll Patrol Craft Fast “Swift Boat” that was originally used in San Diego (1968-1969) to train sailors before they were deployed to fight in the Vietnam War. In 1971 the vessel was donated to the Republic of Malta, where it was used to patrol their coast. In 2012 the beat up boat returned to San Diego.  After many hours of work by volunteers, it was carefully restored to it’s present fine condition. You might note in the photos that she still flies the Maltese flag.

If you’re fascinated by tacking sailboats, arching bridges and sprawling shipyards, interested in military history or modern Navy ships, or just want to enjoy a cruise on San Diego Bay, you might enjoy this tour!

Inside the museum's steam ferry Berkeley, visitors check out informative exhibits as they wait to board the Swift Boat.
Inside the Maritime Museum’s steam ferry Berkeley, visitors check out informative exhibits as they wait to board the old Swift Boat.
With the introduction of Swift Boats into the Coastal Surveillance Forces of the Navy in 1965, the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado became a major training center for Swift Boat crews.
With the introduction of Swift Boats into the Coastal Surveillance Forces of the Navy in 1965, the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado became a major training center for Swift Boat crews.
Patrol Craft Fast (PCF) was the U.S. Navy's official name for a Swift Boat. They were small, shallow draft water vessels operated for counterinsurgency operations during the Vietnam War.
Patrol Craft Fast (PCF) was the U.S. Navy’s official name for a Swift Boat. They were small, shallow draft water vessels operated for counterinsurgency operations during the Vietnam War.
People board the Vietnam-era boat from the Maritime Museum's docked steam yacht Medea.
People board the old Vietnam War-era boat from the Maritime Museum’s docked steam yacht Medea.
We cast off and begin a partial tour of the bay, including enormous shipyards and many San Diego Navy ships.
We cast off and begin a partial tour of the bay, including enormous shipyards and many San Diego Navy ships.
A museum volunteer narrates our tour and points out some of the unique sights on San Diego Bay.
A museum volunteer narrates our tour and points out some of the unique sights on San Diego Bay.
No matter what boat or ship you choose, a cruise of the bay is both relaxing and invigorating.
No matter what boat or ship you choose, a cruise of the big bay is both relaxing and invigorating.
We pass under the immense bow of the USS Midway aircraft carrier, which is also a super popular and fascinating museum.
We pass under the immense bow of the USS Midway aircraft carrier, which is also a super popular museum.
We pass a sailboat and begin under the Coronado Bay Bridge. We are approaching San Diego's very large, busy shipyards.
We pass a sailboat and begin under the Coronado Bay Bridge. We are approaching San Diego’s very large, busy shipyards.
A huge Navy ship in dry dock at BAE Systems’ San Diego shipyard. NASSCO and Continental Maritime also have enormous yards on the bay.
A huge Navy ship in dry dock at BAE Systems’ San Diego shipyard. NASSCO and Continental Maritime also have enormous yards on the bay.
The gigantic gray ship is the USNS Lewis B. Puller. The first of its kind, it's a forward staging base that will act as a floating base or transfer station.
The gigantic gray ship is the USNS Lewis B. Puller. The first of its kind, it’s a forward staging base that will act as a floating base or transfer station.
USNS Bob Hope is another huge ship! She's a vehicle cargo ship used for Army vehicle prepositioning, She's the only Navy vessel to be named after entertainer Bob Hope.
USNS Bob Hope is also huge! She’s a vehicle cargo ship used for Army vehicle prepositioning, She’s the only Navy vessel to be named after legendary entertainer Bob Hope.
That unique ship in the middle is a new Independence-class littoral combat ship. USS Coronado is a trimaran, which allows it to operate in shallow water.
That unique ship in the middle is a new Independence-class littoral combat ship. USS Coronado is a trimaran, which allows it to operate in shallow coastal water.
USS Essex is an enormous United States Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship based in San Diego.
USS Essex is an enormous United States Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship based in San Diego.
Naval Base San Diego (also called 32nd Street Naval Station) occupies a long stretch of South Bay. It's the largest United States Navy base on the west coast.
Naval Base San Diego (also called 32nd Street Naval Station) occupies a long stretch of South Bay. It’s the largest United States Navy base on the west coast.
Guy enjoying the tour dons helmet and mans the Swift Boat's old 50 caliber machine gun, which is mounted over a 81mm mortar.
Guy enjoying the tour dons helmet and mans the Swift Boat’s 50 caliber machine gun, which is mounted over a 81mm mortar on the boat’s rear deck.
A pith military helmet once worn by Viet Cong soldiers is passed around for the passengers to examine.
A pith military helmet once worn by Viet Cong soldiers is passed around for the passengers to examine.
A watchful seagull and lazy sea lion share a harbor buoy on calm, sunny San Diego Bay.
A watchful seagull and lazy sea lion share a harbor buoy on calm, sunny San Diego Bay.
Heading back toward downtown San Diego, we learn more about the history of Swift Boat training in San Diego.
Heading back toward downtown San Diego, we learn more about the history of Swift Boat training in our fascinating city.
After docking, I get a quick pic of the Mark ll Swift Boat's small pilot house.
After docking, I get a quick pic of the Mark ll Swift Boat’s small pilot house.
Swift Boat, PCF-816 is one of many interesting, diverse vessels in the Maritime Museum's collection.
Swift Boat, PCF-816 is one of many interesting, diverse vessels in the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s collection.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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