"It's a whole new learning curve," said Fucco. "In a standard boat, the throttle and clutch function differently for each task, whether it is to back up, turn or go ahead. This doesn't use a clutch. The transmission is always engaged to the water jet drive. The water goes through the jets."
Another problem, said Fucco, is that the officers appear to have the most difficulties with backing up because the boat operates counter to what a twin-screw boat would do.
"In many instances, in close quarters, the operator simply leaves the wheel amidships and operates with clutches and throttles. In close-quarter operation with jet-drive boats, you have to develop a mastery with the wheel at the helm and control the buckets in tandem to achieve the maneuverability desired," he added.
"It handles completely different than any other boat. You have to consider the time you may need to become proficient with the boat," said Sgt. John Marschhauser. His advice to other departments interested in acquiring this type of boat is to "consider building in that training time."
Months after the county purchased the boat, officers are still training on it. "It takes awhile to become proficient, especially if you're used to operating a twin screw," explained Marschhauser. "You naturally react to do it in the same way you were used to - when you have no time to think. You need to become so familiar with it that it becomes second nature."
Fast and Good in the Tight Spots
Once the officers learn the lessons, they say they think the boat has many advantages.
"The side-beam maneuvers are great," said Fucco. "It has better speed and can go into shallow waters."
"The jet affords a couple of advantages: first, maneuverability; second, shallow draft. If you have a situation where you are going into shallow waters and tight spots, then it is the way to go," said Lobkovich.
With jet-propelled engines, the boat can do up to 32 knots, which makes catching up to speed boats possible.
Fucco added, "We can pull up to a service dock sideways. It turns on a dime and stops very quickly and in shorter distance than a propeller boat."
Emergency-response time appears to have decreased. The department's old boats had a maximum speed of 24 knots. The new vessel boasts 32 knots.
The Latest Equipment
Having written more than 1,000 navigational violations in a year, the NCPD marine bureau has acknowledged the need for the most innovative equipment.
The boat uses D.G.P.S. navigational satellite systems, which use a satellite signal to find their position. "It lets us know our latitude and longitude to the 1,000th of a degree," said Fucco. He added that it also uses, as standard equipment, a 100,000-candlepower spotlight.
The boat has a beam of 13 feet, 5 inches and a draft measuring 2 feet, 7 inches. Its overall length is 41 feet, 9 inches. The displacement of the boat is 27,000 pounds when fully loaded, and it has a fuel capacity of 250 gallons.
It is powered by twin diesel engines, fitted to twin disc reversing marine transmissions. The engines are coupled to a pair of propulsion jets through U-joint shafts.
According to Fucco, the Nassau County Police Department is happy with its choice of this vessel, despite training problems. But, he does advise departments that do not have the same conditions to carefully consider what type of boat they may want. "If they have shallow waters, this is certainly a consideration. Otherwise, I would stick with the standard."
Lobkovich agreed. "The specifics of each department must be looked at. A customer can come to us and tell us what he wants in a boat, based on their needs, or he can say he is not sure what he needs."
While the jet-driven boat has many advantages, any department considering this type of craft should test it first and allow the officers enough time to learn its operation.
For more information: www.kvichak.com.
Shelly Feuer Domash is a free-lance writer based in New York and a longtime, regular contributor to POLICE.