One of the nation’s last remaining MK1 River Patrol Boats used during the Vietnam War will get a face-lift thanks to a team of professionals who have partnered with Patriots Point to donate their time, expertise and funding to transport, repair and repaint the historic vessel.
In 1993, the naval and maritime museum in Mount Pleasant opened the Vietnam Naval Support Base Camp — a true-to-scale exhibit that shows the operational and living areas of a U.S. Naval Advanced Tactical Support Base during the Vietnam War.
The boat first arrived at Patriots Point in 1989, but the elements have taken their toll on the historic boat after nearly 25 years of exposure and it needs repairs.
At 10 a.m. Tuesday, volunteers will remove the patrol boat from its current location and hoist it onto a trailer that will transport it to Pierside Boatworks in North Charleston for repairs. The team will remove old paint, repair fiberglass, prime and repaint the boat and install new canvas before returning it to Patriots Point.
The month-long project, estimated to cost $30,000, is being made possible by several parties including Allstate Crane (crane), Big Dog Marine (boat hauling), Interlux (bottom paint), Engineered Marine Coatings (topside paint), Reg Brown (canvas), The Royal Touch Marine Services (lettering), West Marine (parts and supplies) and Pierside Boatworks (labor).
“I was asked by Patriots Point staff to come over and develop an estimate for the repairs to the PBR boat,” said Dave Coker, general manager at Pierside Boatworks and one of the leaders of the project. “Once I saw it and listened to staff explain the lengthy process to get public funding, I was hoping to get some of it donated to lessen the task of raising the money. That sparked the idea of getting our yard and our suppliers involved in a community project. What better way to show our appreciation for our veterans than to fix up a part of their history. We will all feel good at the end of the day for our efforts.”
Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said the refurbished boat will become a centerpiece of a redeveloped “Vietnam Experience” exhibit once a master plan for the area is completed.
“We are extremely grateful for the generous initiative of Pierside Boatworks and their team,” said Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette. “With only one other MK1 PBR remaining in the United States, it is especially important that we preserve this vessel, which played a significant role in our nation’s military history.”
The boats saw action from 1965 through 1971 as the U.S. Navy supported ground troops and counterinsurgency operations along a vast network of waterways. The primary mission of the “Brown Water Navy” was to block the movement of insurgents and their supplies into and within South Vietnam. This included keeping sea lanes open to Saigon, boarding and inspecting watercraft, intercepting gun runners and supplies to the Viet Cong, and conducting psychological operations.