SBU-12 Maintenance and Handling
I served with SBU-12 from November 1983 to August 1985. I served initially as the maintenance officer, before becoming OIC of DET Bravo. The most significant maintenance issue I can remember had to do with the Detroit Diesel's turbo chargers. The turbo charges were failing and the cost to repair them was stiff. An Engineman and I determined that once the engine was turned off, the oil to the turbo charger stopped. However, the turbines continued to spin for several more minutes. The lack of oil lead to the turbo charger’s bearings failing. Our suspicions were sent to NAVSEA. They sent an engineer, who confirmed our hypothesis. A boat alt was issued. The end result was that the oil pump continued to operate via the boat’s many batteries until the temperature of the oil was sufficiently reduced. While the engine oil cooled the turbo charger received oil as it slowly stopped rotating. Problem solved.
The SEAFOX was a great handling boat. It was fast and responsive. Relatively quiet. Stealthy as could be, especially at night. The US Coast Guard would get reports of a fast moving small boat of the coast of San Diego. One night we turned off our running lights and played cat and mouse with a Coast Guard cutter just to see if they could find us. As long as we did not kick up a wake they could not see us on radar.
As others have stated, the SEAFOX had a tendency to ‘submarine’. The Vice Admiral who was Third Fleet at that time liked the SEAFOX. We pulled ‘dog & pony’ duty at his request a few times. This involved picking the Admiral and his VIP quests up at the Flag pier at NAB Coronado and taking them down to 32nd Street to view the ships, then to North Island, and some times around to the Pt. Loma submarine base. On one occasion the Admiral requested that we proceed from the 32nd Street piers to NAS North Island at full speed. Normally one would not run the SEAFOX at full speed while in San Diego Bay. However, Lieutenants do not argue with 3 star Admirals. Off we went at 30 plus knots. We were up ‘on step’ when the Admiral ordered an all stop. I told the coxswain to bring the speed down. The Admiral was not pleased that we did not stop immediately. (The land mark was going by to fast). He yelled for “all stop” from the passenger area. I tried to explain why we needed to bring the boat down slowly, but he interrupted and once again order ‘all stop”. Once again, one does not normally argue with a 3 star Admiral. I had the coxswain throttle immediately back to stop. The Secret Service Agent and I were standing forward on the engine cover. As the bow dug into the bay, a large wave went over our heads and landed on the Admiral and his VIP guest. They were both soaked! An unaccompanied tour in Adak, Alaska flashed in my mind. The Admiral was very good about it. He realized to late why his orders were not carried out initially. He learned the hard way about one of the negative boat handling aspects of the SEAFOX.
If the waves were going in the right direction, the SEAFOX could be surfed. I once used just the engine throttles to surf from San Clemente to Pt. Loma. Matching the speed of the wave, one could stay just short of the crest. A smooth ride.
We took the SEAFOX out several times in sea-state four during our deployment in Subic. One had to be a good boat handler, but we could take our passengers to their desired locations even when helicopters were grounded due to weather. I can recall some sea stories resulting from a couple of those missions.
The SEAFOX were new when I had the pleasure of operating with them. Unfortunately, the resin used on the SEAFOX did not fair well to ultra violet light. As the resin broke down, the fiberglass in the hull absorbed salt water. A water logged SEAFOX must have been a nightmare.
Bill Sherrill, CDR USN, Retired
More Seafox here: http://www.warboats.org/seafox.htm