A picket boat is a type of small naval craft. These are used for harbor patrol and other close inshore work, and have often been carried by larger warships as a ship's boat. They range in size between 30 and 55 feet.
Patrol boats, or any craft engaged in sentinel duty, are sometimes referred to as picket boats, using "picket" in the generic sense, even if much larger than actual picket boats.
The Union's 45-foot (14 m) long steam-powered Picket Boat Number One sank the Confederate ironclad Albemarle in 1864. (Although named "Picket Boat", this craft has also been called a steam launch). The boat was armed with a 12-pounder Dahlgren gun and a spar torpedo, of which the latter was employed in sinking Albemarle. The Union's Potomac Flotilla also employed some picket boats.
A number of American warships of the 19th century carried picket boats, such as the USS Vulcan (her picket boat was heavily engaged by Spanish small-caliber shore fire during one incident in the Spanish–American War), and others.
In the early 1920s, during Prohibition, the United States Coast Guard built a fleet of picket boats to intercept rum runners, supplementing the larger and more seaworthy cutters and patrol boats. These boats were about 36 feet (11 m) long, had no main fixed armament, and cost about US$8,800 (about $128,651 in 2018 dollars) to build.
A long-serving 19th-century British picket boat, carried on capital ships, was a 50-foot (15 m) model introduced in 1867 which saw wide service in World War I and even some limited service in World War II. The typical main armament during most of this boat's service life was a Hotchkiss 3–pounder, adopted by the Royal Navy in 1886.
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