REEDVILLE, VA. -- "Miami Vice" it's not, though it almost seems so when the U.S. Customs' high-powered speedboat cuts across the Chesapeake Bay in search of drug smugglers.

With the bay's many coves, inlets and secluded moorings, the Customs Service is convinced that this area is a haven for drug smugglers bringing in marijuana and cocaine from Jamaica and South America.

To stop them, the agency spent $85,000 to establish an office here, and sent seven agents and two boats. So far, they've identified two stolen boats, but they haven't caught any smugglers.

"Part of what we are doing here is making sure {drug smugglers} don't have a nice, safe place to go instead of Florida," said Thomas F. Hill, a 19-year customs official who heads the office in Reedville, a town of 10,200 that sits near the tip of pastoral Northumberland County on Virginia's Northern Neck.

Drug agents from the different, and sometimes rival, federal drug enforcement agencies say there is evidence that drug traffic moves through the area and that the bay needs more policing. They base this in part on intelligence sources and on the availability and price of drugs in certain areas.

"We feel that patrol and interdiction on the Chesapeake Bay was needed and is needed," said Bob O'Leary, special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration. He points out that there has not been a major seizure on the bay in several years.

"The whole Chesapeake Bay was left unattended for a long time," said Donald Turnbaugh, special agent in charge of the customs office in Baltimore. In charge of the Eastern Shore, his office has not made a seizure there in at least three years, he said. The nearest customs office to Reedville is in Virginia Beach.

The U.S. Coast Guard made several major marijuana seizures on the bay between 1976 and 1982, but no large ones since then despite using the same amount of resources and effort, said Lt. j.g. Brian Marvin, intelligence officer for the Coast Guard's 5th District, which covers the mid-Atlantic region. This may be because smugglers have switched from marijuana to cocaine, which is easier to conceal, he said.

So far, the agents stationed in Reedville say they have spent most of their time making contacts in the community and patrolling the bay in their two boats, occasionally boarding vessels for routine checks. When it comes, the big drug bust will be made possible by sources and tips, the chief agent here says.

"It would be impossible to just go out and trip over drugs," Hill said. "When we break a big case here, it will come from information from the contacts we have developed here . . . . We're going to have to know which creek to sit in."

The office was opened with an $85,000 budget and a boat so souped up that the Reedville office returned it for a less conspicuous model.

"Every time we took it out, there was a parade" of gawkers, Hill said. The one they have now still can go faster than 60 miles an hour, according to the manufacturer.

Hill's concerns aren't restricted to the water. The area is dotted with small airstrips. "That may be more of a threat," he said.

The office has gotten a number of calls about suspicious landings, but the planes reportedly arrive at night and the calls generally don't come in until the next day -- too late to investigate, he said.

Hill added that smugglers can complicate the agents' job by using a combination of delivery methods, such as using air drops into the bay, where the drugs are picked up by a boat.

Agents also suspect that boats carrying drugs dock at waterfront homes, then are taken away in the middle of the night by car or van. It would be some time before a neighbor might notice the activity and even longer before that neighbor would call, Hill said.

The arrival of the customs office apparently did not make a big splash in Reedville.

"It was a surprise to a lot of people . . . . I don't think anyone was aware of any drugs being brought in," said Harold Tripp, owner of the Tripp-A-Lee restaurant, a local gathering spot and the only place the customs agents have found that serves lunch. But Tripp added that the service runs "a quiet operation" and its work "is just something that is never brought up."

The big industry here is a fish-product factory operated by the Zapata Haynie Corp. The company takes bony and unsavory menhaden fish from the bay and squeezes out fish oil for use in European foods and American paint.

Under a joint venture with the government, the company has started reducing the fish meat into a tan, jelly-like paste that gets flavored and processed into pseudo-crab legs and pseudo-lobster now sold at grocery stores.

Steve Jones, general manager of the Reedville factory, which employs 260 people, said he has not had any contact with the agents: "They're there, and that's about it."

For agent Hill, living in the small town is a pleasant experience. He sometimes amuses himself listening to D.C. rush-hour traffic reports as he waits to walk the block to his Reedville office. Despite his admitted disappointment of not making a case so far, he says he is happy with the progress in making local contacts.

"Before I leave," he said, "either we will make some smuggling cases or we will be able to say it's not here."