"That's an evasive maneuver," Kocab smiles as I peel myself off the console. "Would you like to try it again?" No, thanks.
Kocab's next riverine assault on my fraying nerves is the death-stop. At full speed, he throws down the buckets of the Hamilton 271 jet drives, causing the bow to dig in and the boat to stop, but not before throwing a monster wave over the bow into the cockpit. Kocab seems pleased with the result. Slightly less extreme is the S-turn, done while wide open (are you noticing a pattern here?) using only the jet's buckets-not the wheel-to make the snakelike turns.
One of the few maneuvers that isn't done at full throttle is called the dolphin. We stop just shy of a channel marker, as Kocab uses the buckets to crab 360 degrees around, keeping the bow pointed at the marker. The usefulness of this drill isn't apparent until you consider that the .50-cal is pointed directly ahead. A machine gun's business end is a scary sight. "Containment," grunts Kocab.
Sitting still isn't something riverine marines often do; nonetheless they practice anchoring techniques-with an understandable emphasis on quick getaways. I was shown two strategies. First, we brought the boat close to shore, where we were able to tie to a tree-our own gigantic beach spike. Time to go? To hell with untying knots. Cut and run. Out comes the ax, the line splits, and we're gone. The second method is to drop an anchor tied to a fender, then tie the boat to the fender. If a quick escape is needed, cut loose or untie from the fender, which marks the anchor when it's safe to come back.
I beg off the demonstration of troop transfers, which consists of two RACs running side-by-side at full-throttle, their bows angled in, pushing against each other, allowing soldiers to jump from boat to boat. Make a mistake and one boat climbs over the other. These guys are either crazy or brave beyond my comprehension-or both.
IN LIKE FLEET
Back at the dock, I take a stroll through the other SCC boats. There's a Rigid Raiding Craft (RRC) outfitted with twin 70-hp Johnsons. It's easy to spot the familiar lines of an 18' Boston Whaler, but get up close and it looks nothing like what I've seen while fishing. For one, it's painted camo. There are no angling accouterments, no fishing package, and no ski pylon.
Uncluttered deck space is a must if it's expected to haul 10 fully loaded troops. The helm is fastened to the deck with cotter pins for quick removal and service, and there's a huge grabrail bolted outboard to aid boarding. The leaning post reaches only halfway up my legs-on a normal Whaler it would at least come up to my butt. As it turns out, it's not built for butts, but for backs, "It's for when you're squatting down behind the helm to avoid enemy fire," instructs Kocab. Makes sense.