The S.S. Minnow is the name of the ship the seven castaways were traveling on when they got beached on The Island. The Minnow was a small steam-powered craft (hence the S.S.) the Skipper was captain over (with Gilligan as his first mate), and he used it to give "three hour tours" to people around Hawaii (with free lunches). During one of the tours, there was a huge storm that swept the Minnow and it's passengers out to sea after which they drifted for a few days and eventually got beached.
In the episode, "Goodbye Island", the Professor tried to make nails to patch up the holes in the Minnow but failed. Then, later, Gilligan and Mary Ann found tree sap to substitute for syrup which turned into a hardy glue. However, right after patching up the holes with the glue, the glue ceased sticking and caused the Minnow to completely fall apart.
The S.S. Minnow actually has a long and detailed history represented by several different crafts of varying characteristics. The following crafts have appeared as the Minnow in all of its incarnations.
The first Minnow was a Honolulu rental with the call numbers GG 1001; these numbers don't appear on the later versions. It rested in the Honolulu port and was used to tape the passengers' arrival. Gilligan appears on it as the Skipper poses nearby at the sign, "S.S. Minnow island Charter - Exotic Trips - Free Lunchs."
The second Minnow was a Marina Del Rey rental, an 11-meter long 1964 Wheeler craft powered with two Detroit diesel engines that appears in the opener sailing from the harbor and out to sea. It appears very briefly in one scene with the Minnow 1.0.
The third Minnow, make and model unknown, was the beached craft seen in the pilot when the Skipper wakes and goes to investigate. Gilligan dives off it when he thinks the Skipper was washed over board. Segments of this footage re-appear in Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk with actors John Gabriel and Kit Smythe from the pilot still seen on board.
The fourth Minnow was a huge prop from CBS studios used in the opening shots of the color episodes. It appears in Goodbye Island as the Professor fixes the holes with tree sap used as glue. Gilligan climbs on board trying to save it.
The fifth Minnow is the huge stripped down Minnow from Goodbye Island showing the craft as a wood skeleton with Gilligan still holding the wheel, and everything, including the factory-attached parts, rejected from the boat by the defective glue.
The new Minnow is a modern craft, make and model unknown, acquired by the Skipper in Rescue from Gilligan's Island from his insurance money. Although he was not held accountable for the wreck due to the events in Court-Martial, he still had to get the signatures from the castaways as a promise not to sue the Skipper for damages. Re-painted and re-outfitted, the Skipper takes the craft out on a Christmas cruise reunion with the Castaways. This Minnow actually sinks off the island, indicated by a plank of wood marked Minnow 1, although why this plank has a number on it where a number didn't exist before is unrevealed.
The second new Minnow was an old World War Two bomber recovered from the jungle by the last storm to hit the island. The Professor restores it to the best of his abilities in The Castaways on Gilligan's Island with spare parts and the remnants of two other planes found at the uncovered airfield, but even with his repairs and modifications, it doesn't last long. Seconds after turning back to rescue Gilligan, the engines fall off, but their appearance and disappearance from radar does attract the attention of the Coast Guard to rescue them on the island!
- The Minnow was named for Newton Minow, the chairman of the FCC in 1961 who called television "a vast wasteland."
- The Minnow 1.1 has since been found and restored and now gives tours near Vancouver, Canada.
- The Minnow 1.3 is now stored at MGM-Disney Studios in Florida.