Steam Pinnacles, Pickets and Tenders

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These are some of my favourite boats and were used for moving between ships and shore. They could carry a gun and the earlier craft could carry two torpedoes and, as a picket, were designed to protect harbour entrances and ships at anchor. Steam picket boats, cutters, pinnaces and barges are all names given to small steam powered boats that could be hoisted on board and lowered using the ship's own equipment. We shall use the term "steam picket boat" unless the photograph is identified as otherwise. A general workhorse, these often elegant boats were, in the Royal Navy, commanded by a Midshipman with a crew of a Petty Officer Coxswain, Coxswain, two seamen as bowmen, a sternsheetman and a boy to handle the fender whilst in the engine room was a Stoker Petty Officer and his Stoker. All Navies had steam picket boats and the number carried on a ship depended on its size and its role. Other interesting small craft – rowed and motor boats - are also included.

Catalogue number 108005

Picket boats taking crew ashore

The battleship fleet is in port, it looks like Hong Kong, and the picket boats are out along with five cutters following behind.

14cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108006

Working picket boat

Here is a photograph of a steam picket boat doing it's job. The officers are sitting in the stern whilst the Midshipman is at the helm. The boat is towing a cutter full of sailors and a smaller whaler as they pass under the bow of HMS Exmouth.

Recto; "The British squadron in the Baltic at Schwinemunde (Germany). The Exmouth, Admiral's ship of Admiral Wilson in the foreground. Admiral Wilson is going ashore." Translated from French.

16.5cm x 11.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108007

Picket boats and motor launches follow the cutter race

Several steam pickets can be seen in this view of a cutter race during a fleet regatta. Judging by the distance between the two cutters, we are at the finishing line. Various flags are flying from the bow of the different pickets. These races were the object of much prestige... and betting!

14cm x 8.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108008

Motor boat, USS Georgia

The 40-ft motor boat of the US Navy was the general workhorse of the fleet and was used to transport men or supplies and stores. Early boats had petrol engines later replaced by diesel engines. The boat was open to the elements except for a canvas shelter over the engine when necessary and in this photograph, we can see the wire strops used to hoist the motor boat on board. There seems to be a mounting for stepping a mast on the forward-most thwart. USS Georgia was commissioned into the fleet in 1906 and was decommissioned in 1920.

13.6cm x 8.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 70138

Steam picket boat

We can see, from right to left, the bowman with the gaff holding the boat to the wharf, the dome-shaped mounting for the gun, the Stoker Petty Officer is standing half out of the engine room hatch and there are two officers at the helm.

9cm x 14cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 80312

Royal Navy twin funnel picket boat circa late 1800s

Here is a smart Picket boat underway off the coast of Gibraltar, the sailors have straw hats and the stern cabin is covered by a fancy sun shade. The twin funnel arrangement enabled to helmsman to have a clearer view forward, the single funnel in the centreline tended to obscure his view.

Recto AZH. Life in the Royal Navy 22. Ship's Torpedo Boat

8cm x 8cm glass positive


Catalogue number 80310

Swinging out a picket boat

This photograph shows the well-proportioned hull of these solid little boats. The picket boat is being swung out on a derrick, the funnel is hinged down for the moment and we can see the three-bladed screw and the strong keel.

Recto AZH. Life in the Royal Navy 25. Work main derrick: Out Picket boat

8cm x 8cm glass positive


Catalogue number 74043

HMS Barham

There is a lot of activity around HMS Barham with two picket boats and several cutters lying off. Several boats have already been stowed on the upper deck and it looks like a derrick is being positioned to lift out the left hand picket boat. Note the biplanes on B and C turrets with the flying off platform running over the gun barrels.

Recto H.M.S. Barham Flagship 2nd Battle Squadron. Atlantic Fleet

9cm x 13,8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 100107

Steam Picket boat from SMS Nassau

A very proud sailor is standing on the stern of this German Picket boat which is tied up to the boat boom. The helming post has a shield that gives the helmsman some protection from some spray and a sailor is standing in the engine room hatch but we cannot see any air intakes. The gaff is lying on the deck by the engine room casing.

Verso "Im Erinnerung am die Nimmerschene Nassaubarkass Dein Freund Lucien Lindermann den 10 Juni 1918" In memory of the....(friendship?)....Nassau barque Your friend Lucien Lindermann the 10th June 1918.

8,1cm x 10,1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 19032

Harbour steam tender

Far from the sleek and elegant lines of the so-well-kept steam pickets, the steam tenders were hard-working boats in the naval bases, with all the bumps and scrapes that go with the job. A canvas cover protects the engine room of this French Navy boat.

13.8cm x 8.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 37172

French Navy Patrol boat

This boat may be for patrolling the coastal water off Tunisia. When purchased, it was said that the photograph was from 1910 and the 5 centimes stamp was in use at that time in Tunisia.

13.8cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 92053

Steam Picket boat of the German Navy

Here's a jolly crowd steaming along with quite a few men aboard. Sailors are on deck along with two men in civilian clothes and a smartly-dressed sailor with white gloves. Seated in the stern is a group of four including another man in civilian clothes - are they all going on shore leave? The helmsman has a voice pipe in his left hand for communicating with the engine room. The crest of the ship to which this boat belongs can be seen on the port bow but it is as yet unidentified.

13.8cm x 8.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 35222

US Navy tender to the diver, detail

The "diver down" pennant is out as the boat crew from USS Idaho search for a torpedo probable lost during a trial firing. The hard-hat diver is on the stern ladder and the pump is manned, it looks very much like a Siebe Gorman pump.

Verso: "USS Idaho Bill pumping in boat for diver looking for lost torpedo" in pencil.

8,1cm x 10,1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 29048

Cutter, HMS Aboukir, 1905

HMS Aboukir was a Cressy-class cruiser completed in 1902 and was deployed in the Mediterranean until 1905. Although the legend to this photograph says that it was taken off Marseille, it looks more like the naval base of Toulon.

Recto: "Une petite Barque du croiseur anglais "Aboukir" Marseille, le 28 avril 1905" in black ink (A small cutter from the English cruiser "Aboukir" Marseille, 28th April 1905).

8,1cm x 10,1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 35315

Party group in a British whaler

So what is going on in this Royal Navy whaler? Men in top hats with their faces blackened accompanied by sailors and one of them has a bass drum whilst another up in the bow of the boat has a mace. Is it some kind of farce with the whaler going from ship to ship at anchor?

13.7cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 40242

A variety of US Navy motor launches

Balboa was a district of the city of Panama at the southern end of the Panama canal and formed an important center for the American forces when they controlled the canal zone. All sorts of US Navy motor picket boats and launches are gathered around the simple landing wharf. Characteristic of the picket boats is the fancy sunshade at the stern and the forward wheelhouse.

12.8cm x 7.5cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 19019

USS California and a motor picket boat

This photograph shows a stern view of the battleship USS California some time in the 1920s. We can appreciate the size of the battleship and its broad beam by comparing it with the motor picket boat that is passing to the starboard quarter. The helming position is midships in this large motor launch and things seem pretty relaxed.

Verso: "Cuirassé California" in black ink ("Battleship California")

8,1cm x 10,1cm Gelatin silver print