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MIAMI: Yellowfin Yachts used in Texas’s war on drugs

MIAMI - Texas wants you to know it's fighting a drug war along its Rio Grande border with Mexico and on the lower Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

The Texas Highway Patrol is exhibiting a black-hulled 34-foot Yellowfin at the Miami International Boat Show, one of six it has on order from Yellowfin Yachts, of Sarasota, Fla. One purpose of the display is educational, said Highway Patrol Maj. Robert Bailey. “We’ve got 1,250 miles of border with Mexico,” he said.

Bailey said Texas ordered the boats in January 2011 after its patrol boats started drawing fire from drug traffickers on the Mexican bank of the Rio Grande.

“It’s purely defensive,” he said. “If we’re fired on, we’ll fire back.”

The Yellowfin has all the accoutrements of a riverine assault boat — Kevlar plating in the hull; two .30-caliber machine guns mounted fore and aft (Bailey said the boat patrols with four to six machine guns mounted on the deck); retractable Kevlar ballistic panels topside to protect crew; and a shock-absorbing seating system that cushions both crew seats and boat controls so the driver and controls are in synch. Powered by three 300-hp Mercury Verado outboards, the armed patrol boat can power up to 60 knots, Bailey said.

The boats cost $500,000 to $750,000 apiece, according to Bailey. Three have been built and three more are on order. He said the boats will be used for drug and terrorist interdiction and for emergency services, such as assisting hurricane victims.

Bailey said most of the country does not know what’s going on along its Southwest border. “We’re tired of people exploiting our borders and committing felonies in our state,” he said. “We didn’t have any water assets to bring these people to justice.”

Now they do.

— Jim Flannery

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