Don’t be fooled by its cute dimensions because this tiny ship is just as important as its larger siblings. Meet the 19BB “Boomin Beaver,” arguably the Navy’s smallest vessel.

Tiniest Navy Boat

While this tiny boat does not launch helicopters or fighter jets from its deck, nor does it launch amphibious vehicles during combat landings, the Boomin Beaver plays quite an important role, especially when warships and other naval vessels are being moored near the harbors.

Security Tug Boat Rests Next To Pier
Boomin Beaver, the Navy’s security tug boat (Image source: DVIDS)

Besides looking all friggin’ cute and adorable, this 19-foot (5.7 meters) mini tugboat served its big sisters by deploying, operating, and maintaining submarine barriers or port security booms around naval installations. Its size is perfect for the task as it is much closer to the water, allowing two to five crew members to safely maneuver—close, and open these underwater barriers without the risk of damaging the big ships.

BBs Specifications

Built by Chuck’s Boat and Drive of Longview, Washington, in 2002, 19BB (also stands for “Barrier Boats”) was originally intended to tug floating logs for the commercial logging industry. Thus, the endearing nickname operating Sailors gave the boat, which was inducted into service in early 2003. A year prior, military officials have been on the hunt for a reliable mini-tug capable and small enough to open and close these booms. It wasn’t long before they stumbled upon the struggling Chuck, who had suffered the consequences of the slowing logging industry in the early 2000s.

(Image source: DVIDS)

The vessel measures around 19 ft, with a beam of 10 ft and a draught of 5.5 ft, and a displacement of just around 10,000 kilograms. It is powered by a 260-horsepower Cummins 6BTA 5.9 diesel engine with ZF marine transmission.

The Navy currently maintains ten BBs, one of which was previously stationed at NSB Kings Bay in 2006, with the rest dispersed at the Boston Navy Yard, Naval Base Kitsap, Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Base Point Loma, and the US Naval base in Sasebo, Japan.

It’s Not Exactly a Warship

In case you were wondering, the Boomin Beaver is not armed and, of course, not a warship. Although much bigger than the Beaver, the USS Pueblo remains one of the US Navy’s smaller ships at 177 feet long. She was a Banner-class environmental research ship that was later attached to Naval intelligence.

She sailed on her maiden voyage from San Diego to her home port of Yokosuka naval base in Japan, leaving on November 6th, 1967. Her mission was to patrol the eastern channel of the Korea Strait, returning to Sasebo, Japan. Unfortunately, the Pueblo never made it back. On the 23rd of January, 1968, she was confronted by four North Korean P-4 class torpedo boats. The small ship was boarded by the North Koreans and, at 1432, sent her last transmission, “…being boarded at this time… going off the air now and destroying this gear.” 

Two North Korean officers with pistols and at least eight riflemen with fixed bayonets made their way onboard. Minutes later, a second group boarded the Pueblo and took over the helm. Eighty-two sailors endured 11 months of harsh captivity before being released two days before Christmas in 1968. The men of the Pueblo were initially denied Prisoner of War medals, only to be finally awarded them many years later in 1990.

The ship is still carried on the US Naval Vessel Register as “Active in Commission,” according to a US Navy website. She is currently anchored in Pyŏngyang as a centerpiece in their “Victorious War Museum.”

The captured Pueblo is pictured here in North Korea in 2012. Image from Wikimedia Commons

A short (excuse the pun) video on the “Beaver.”