Little Toot was built all the way back in 1939. Sure, the hull is wood and the paint is faded. It’s true that top speed is just six knots and the boat handles like a giant inboard-powered bathtub. Yes, I know, Little Toot’s powerplant is coal-fired, for gosh sakes. Still, despite the criminally out-dated technology and close to a century of hard use, this is one of my favorite boats of all time.
In this day and age, Little Toot could never even be built. The boat’s puff-balls of smoke alone would be a grievous violation of environmental laws, not to mention those fuel-wasting figure-eights Little Toot always makes. In fact, in 1970, in one of the first maritime actions of its kind, an EPA exec pushed to have Little Toot scuttled and turned into a fish reef. Luckily, the Maersk shipping line lobbied for the vessel’s protection in appreciation for its years of service, especially for its role in single-handedly saving the bulk ore carrier Hardie Gramatky from the Jaws of destruction as it washed towards a rocks jetty during A Perfect Storm.
Shortly after Little Toot was granted an environmental exemption by the federal government, owner Captain Phillips began a full stem-to-stern renovation of the vessel, including an all new interior designed by the Italian firm Lydia Pequod Nautilus. While the original engine was kept intact for historical reasons, a full suite of electronics were installed including GPS, radar, and AIS networked with a pair of the latest 14” touch-screen MFDs. Unfortunately, the electronic proved to be of little use as Little Toot has no hands and is not NMEA2000 compliant.
Tragedy struck Little Toot in the mid 80s, when Grandpa Toot sunk off Cape Fear and Big Toot was burned to the waterline by his Master and Commander. As the last Toot afloat, Little Toot endeavored to maintain the model line’s reputation by remaining in the public eye. There were several cameo appearances on SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as a role alongside Theodore Tugboat in the feature film Cars II.
After these brief career boosts, unfortunately, Little Toot once again took a turn for the worse. Foolishly texting with Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel while guiding a ship into its slip led to the infamous marina disaster of 2013. After this event, Little Toot was taken out of service permanently.
Today, Little Toot’s exact whereabouts are unknown. Some say he disappeared after being sucked into The Bermuda Triangle by a Tornado, while others believe Little Toot vanished while it was Dead Calm during a Red October. Some have even claimed that Little Toot is now a Ghost Ship, and we've forever lost The Bounty of its presence.
Any way you look at it, Little Toot’s contributions to maritime culture are truly significant. And that's why it was, and shall always be, a boat that I love.