Little is known of the first Billow, a composite wood and iron hulled ferry launch acquired for use at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I. The sparse record that does exist, however, reveals a career that while prosaic, was important. For example, the Torpedo Station’s Officer-in-charge wrote in his report for the fiscal year 1892 that Billow had received “considerable hard usage” during the “ice blockade” the previous winter, indicating a stoutly built little craft used for a variety of tasks around the Torpedo Station. Later described as a “relief ferry launch”--probably to spell other craft engaged in similar pursuits--Billow had been “fitted with davits” by 1901, and was used during the “summer course,” in the burgeoning mine warfare program for “mining, countermining, and other services with the classes under instruction...” Her name disappeared from ship and craft lists around 1913.
Robert J. Cressman
6 February 2006