The US Navy’s Smallest Boat

Recently, photos have been passed around on social media of a US Navy ship that is so tiny in size that some are referring to it as the “smallest ship in the US Navy.”

The ship does truly exist and may truly be the smallest ship in the entire US Navy. It is called the “Boomin Beaver” and is also known as the “Beaver Boomer,” “Beaver Boat,” or “Barrier Boat.” It is being used as a security tug and was built by Chuck’s Boat and Drive in Longview, Washington.

The tiny boats were originally built for loggers to use in pulling floating logs downstream. The US Navy recognized the potential of the diminutive vessels and bought them for their own purposes in naval harbors.

According to some sites, the navy has purchased as many as 40 of the little boats.

The security tugs are used for various duties within a harbor including the towing of small ships and the opening and closing of the security fence.

Security fences are deployed in the water where naval vessels are anchored or docked in order to prevent private and commercial vessels from sailing up to the navy’s ships. They work in a similar fashion to the fence and gate on a cattle pen. They open the gate to let a ship in or out and then close the gate behind them.

USS Constitution or ‘Old Ironsides’ sailing, the ship that the Boomin Beavers often assist.
USS Constitution or ‘Old Ironsides’ sailing, the ship that the Boomin Beavers often assist.

It seems that the navy has purchased a number of these security tugs. You can see one in the Google Maps view of the USS Constitution.

The Constitution is the oldest commissioned vessel in the US Navy. The security tugs have also been seen at various naval bases throughout the United States including Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor in Washington state and Naval Base San Diego in California.

A Boomin Beaver assisting the USS Constitution out of her dry dock. Courtesy of Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston/James Almeida
A Boomin Beaver assisting the USS Constitution out of her dry dock. Courtesy of Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston/James Almeida

The government put one of the small boats up for auction in 2014. It was listed as being 19 feet long and 10 feet wide, making it them the smallest boats in the US Navy.

It was described as having a draft of 5 feet. The power plant in the listed was a Cummins 6BTA5.9 diesel engine which is rated at 260 hp with ZF marine transmission. The highest bid at that auction was $100,025.

According to boathistoryreport.com, Chuck’s Boat and Drive Co., Inc. has been out of business since 2011.

The boats are equipped with steel hulls and aluminium cabins. The one that sold on auction in 2014 for $100,025 came with heat, ac, fans, windshield wipers, sound insulation, magnetic compass, Raytheon rl70c radar, Raytheon loud hailer, Garmin 168 GPS with depth sounder, vhf radio, an upgraded military 24vdc electrical system with shore power, dual battery banks and a battery charger, and a 110 amp alternator.

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In contrast, the smallest US Navy warship is the Cyclone-class patrol ships. These are 178 feet long and weigh about 288 tons. A crew of 28 operates the ship which is used for special operations work.

They can carry a detachment of nine SEALs or six Coast Guard law-enforcement team members. They are armed with two 25mm Bushmaster chain guns and a combination of M2 .50-caliber machine guns, 7.62mm machine guns and Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.