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Steam Pinnace 199

Date published 03/06/2024
Steam Pinnace On the Water

In the 1880s, the Admiralty commissioned a range of small steam boats called "Steam Pinnaces," to support the fleet. Steam Pinnace 199 represents the 786 pinnaces built for the Royal Navy from 1888 to 1929, being the only one still afloat.

During wartime, steam pinnaces could be armed with a Hotchkiss quick-firing gun, Maxim machine gun, or torpedoes, transforming them into formidable fighting vessels. Pinnaces played roles in many World War I operations, notably at Gallipoli and Zeebrugge.


  • Hull: LOA 50’, beam 9’9”, draught 4’6”
  • Construction: Double diagonal teak on oak.
  • Displacement: 14.4 tons
  • Speed: 12 knots at 624 rpm on trials



  • Boiler: Built by Thames Ironworks Co., Yarrow type, three-drum water tube, originally coal-fired, now oil.
  • Engine: Built in 1910 by A G Mumford & Co., a compound of 6.5” + 13” x 8” stroke with Stephenson’s link for astern power.



Identified in 1979 as '199' from a manufacturer's plate on her boiler, recent research showed her machinery originally fitted to Pinnaces 208 and 224. The hull, stern cabin, and funnel are from Pinnace 224. The boiler's origin is unclear, but it was donated by HMS Sultan's engineering school. The volunteer crew decided to keep the name 'Steam Pinnace 199.'

Completed on August 7, 1909, by Reed of Portsmouth, '199' was initially intended for HMS St Vincent. After brief service as the Admiral’s barge on HMS Inflexible, she became a harbour duties pinnace and Captain of the Port’s barge in Portsmouth. She remained in this role for the remainder of her service with the Royal Navy.



After being placed on the Disposal List in 1948 and undergoing unsuccessful conversion attempts, '199' was rescued by volunteers in 1979. Purchased by the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth, her restoration lasted four years. Re-commissioned in 1984, she was refitted in 2000 and 2011, earning national awards for volunteer efforts. '199' is part of the National Historic Fleet.



Operated as in 1909, '199' has a seven-member crew in period uniform, performing Edwardian Royal Navy boat drills. She is viewable during ‘Open Pontoon Days’ at Boat House 4 in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard or steaming in Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent.