Crucial test for restored Vietnam-era swift boat

Maritime Museum adding it to permanent fleet

SAN DIEGO - After thousands of man-hours of labor to purchase and restore a 1968 Vietnam-era swift boat, the moment of truth arrived Wednesday for project director Mark Gallant.

"In order to turn what was a Navy vessel into a passenger-carrying vessel, we had to make a number of changes and have the Coast Guard approve it," said Gallant.

It took years to get to this point after the patrol boat was discovered in the island of Malta.

Once the Maritime Museum of San Diego obtained it, it took months of volunteer hours to get the boat back to the way it looked in 1968.

"This swift boat was used to train sailors in Coronado before they went to war," Gallant said.

The museum was issued a certification of inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard, which means paying passengers will be able to tour Naval Base San Diego, the Navy amphibious base where swift boat sailors were trained, as well as the aircraft carrier basin at North Island.

"This project was never about the boat, but about those who served and came home to scorn. We're going to change that," Gallant said.

Every swift boat sailor who comes aboard will be formally recognized when the tour is over to give them the "thank you" that many never received.

Tours are expected to begin in a couple of weeks.

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