This presentation is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Paul Mardikian
In 2014 Terra Mare Conservation, LLC (TMC) was contracted to undertake the conservation of a 15-foot long aluminum Patrol Craft Fast (PCF) for the National Museum of the United States Navy. The Navy Swift Boats were shallow-draft vessel used for various patrol and counterinsurgency operations during the Vietnam War. The vessels were especially adept at patrolling coastal areas and the numerous interior waterways in Vietnam. PCF-1 is the first in the production line (Mark I), hence its designation as PCF-1.
PCF-1 did not serve in Vietnam, but was permanently assigned to the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, CA, following its speedy production. There, it was used as a training boat for the new PCF crews and maintenance team personnel who had begun to arrive at the Amphibious Base by mid-September of 1965. PCF-1 was placed on static display and mounted onto three concrete pylons on the Navy’s pier at the National Museum of the United States Navy, Washington Navy Yard and was dedicated on April 23, 1998.
The vessel was in a deteriorated condition from years of outdoor exposure, with failed and chalking epoxy paint, loss of original decals, severe corrosion and holes in the hull. Conservation efforts were challenging owing to the restricted access, the vessel’s location on an active Naval installation, and associated regulations for the work. Treatment encompassed the removal of failed coatings to current marine industry standards using ultra high-pressure (UHP) water-jetting of pressures between 30,000 and 40,000 psi, a technique that it is non-abrasive to aluminum and steel substrates, non-toxic and environmentally safe, and appropriate for retaining the original profile of the aluminum surface. Treatment of the vessel also included corrosion remediation, application of a new advanced coating appropriate for the substrate, application of new decals and development of a maintenance plan.
Paul Mardikian is co-founder and senior conservator of Terra Mare Conservation, LLC, a firm specializing in the conservation of archaeological, industrial, fine art and architectural materials. Paul holds a graduate degree in conservation from the Sorbonne University, Paris and completed post-graduate research for Parks Canada and the Western Australian Maritime Museum. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation and former Assistant Coordinator for the ICOM-CC Metals Working Group.