CARETTA was launched in 1898 at Devonport Dockyard, part of a new breed of small armed boats that were designed to protect the fleet at anchor and allow armed patrols. CARETTA would have been assigned to a battleship or heavy cruiser.
She was fitted with two steam engines to driver her twin screws, but also with a sailing rig to help stabilize the vessel in rough conditions. It is unlikely that this rig was ever used for propulsion, it would need extremely strong winds to get the vessel's 15 tons to move.
CARETTA was fitted with a 'bow chaser' gun that was mounted in the middle of her fore deck. After commissioning she was sent to the Boer War where she served as a river patrol boat. On her return she was assigned to the fleet. During the lead up to the First World War, she effectively became obsolete as more powerful armed patrol boats were developed. These had more efficient engines and heavier armament.
In 1915, due to her expendability, CARETTA was re-assigned to the fleet and sent to the Dardanelles to assist in the landing of troops. She had her bow chaser removed and her gun mount was moved to the fore peak. She was then fitted with a Maxim machine gun to give her a higher rate of firepower and allow her to cover troops landing on the beaches at Gallipoli. A photograph from the time is believed to show CARETTA at Anzac Cove-her twin funnels are shown. Her Gun Mount is still on board today and is situated under the galley worktop.
After the Gallipoli Campaign CARETTA returned to serve as an officer's launch at her home port. At the end of the War, the Navy tried to fit her with several internal combustion engines, but all the results were unsatisfactory.
WHERE IS SHE NOW?
In 1929 CARETTA was sold to a marine biologist who lived in Putney, London. He commissioned Gibbs & Sons of Teddington, to convert her into a private motor yacht. She was fitted with two Thorneycroft DB2 handy billy engines christened 'Samson' and 'Delilah'. These proved much more satisfactory that the internal combustion engines fitted by the Navy, and are still fitted in CARETTA to this day.
CARETTA is currently privately owned and in use as a fully operational sailing pinnace at Tollesbury on the River Blackwater in Essex.