Looking down from the copilot’s seat of the Kenmore Air Turbine Single Otter, I watched in wonder as our plane’s silver floats broke loose from the waters of Departure Bay, fascinated as we climbed and banked out the entrance, where a large passenger ferry approached the harbor at the north end of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
I was on my way to Desolation Sound to meet Jeff Messmer, vice president of sales and marketing for Ranger Tugs, to spend a few days running the new Ranger Tug 27 among the mountainous islands of one of British Columbia’s more popular natural cruising destinations. We were flying northwest, the azure waters of the Strait of Georgia spread wide beneath us, and the precipitous evergreen-and-granite-clad peaks of Canada’s western range all around.
In less time than I thought, we began our descent toward Refuge Cove, on the southern tip of West Redonda Island. The Otter dropped down to skim the surface, transitioned from planing to displacement speeds, and, under the expert guidance of our pilot, glided smoothly alongside the float where the R-27 and an R-29 pulled gently at their lines.
On the docks, amid piles of luggage, waited Jeff Messmer and his family, along with Todd Banks, president and general manager of Kenmore Air Harbor, and his family. For the last 10 days, the two families had cruised in concert and enjoyed the best that British Columbia has to offer in late August. With watermakers and solar panels aboard, they’d been living off the grid for several days at a time, enjoying the bounty of pristine salt waters. Now they were headed home, leaving Jeff and I to spend a few days cruising in the two tugs before heading across the Strait of Georgia to deliver the boats to Nanaimo.
Watching the distinctive yellow and white Otter take flight at the end of the passage leading to Refuge Cove, water dripping from the rudders on the float ends, I wondered how often this scene had been repeated in the years since 1946, when Bob Munro and two high school friends—one a mechanic, one a pilot—founded Kenmore Air with a banged-up Aeronca Model K floatplane. From those humble beginnings, Kenmore Air has become “the world’s most successful seaplane airline,” as Harrison Ford wrote in his forward to Success on the Step, which tells the history of this airline that has flown countless crews to points north to meet or leave boats, among other fantastic missions.
By midafternoon, Jeff and I were under way, headed east to Prideaux Haven and a quiet anchorage at Laura Cove. We ran at 15 knots, Jeff in the R-29, I in the new R-27, and eventually dropped the hooks in Melanie Cove, since Laura Cove was well populated, even for late August. We lowered our anchors separately, then rafted the tugs together and ran a stern line to a tree onshore, secure in three points against possible strong wind gusts overnight.
COMPARISONS ARE NATURAL
Seen tied alongside the R-29 in Melanie Cove, there’s no mistaking that the new R-27 is a member of the Ranger Tugs family. Comparisons between the two are numerous, but the real story of the R-27 pivots on lessons learned from the popular R-25. Both the R-27 and the R-25 are 8 feet 6 inches wide for ease of trailering and are designed by Dave Livingston to operate comfortably and economically in a wide range of conditions. Both boats feature a broad array of equipment and features most cruisers will want.
The R-27’s longer planing surface makes her a fine running boat, as I found out while crossing the Strait of Georgia a couple days later. Her hull form has an excellent running attitude, one that doesn’t squat under heavy acceleration. Power is provided by a 180hp Yanmar diesel, the only engine offered, replacing the 150hp Yanmar that powers the R-25 (there was a 110hp diesel in the earlier R-25s). Tankage is upgraded to 100 gallons from 75, with water and fuel tanks located low on the centerline so that changing levels won’t create list or change trim dramatically.
The bottom shape includes a bump in the hull that allows mounting the engine deeper, creating a 6-degree shaft angle for more efficient power transfer at the prop, which swings in a pocket in the hull to minimize draft. The bump also serves as a warp in the hull to augment transition from displacement to semi-displacement speeds. Significant reverse-chine flats dampen roll effectively and extend far forward to help keep the ride dry. The keel starts about a third of the way back from the bow, then disappears just ahead of the prop pocket and bronze rudder. A very short 2-inch section of shaft emerges from the log at the back of the keel, minimizing the chances for a bent shaft.
The major component in the construction of the boat is the hull mold, followed by a molded fiberglass stringer that includes the V-berth structure that forms storage compartments so that it runs from the bow to the stern. Lead ingots are molded into the stringer for attachment of the engine mounts to optimize vibration attenuation, and the whole structure is injected with high-density foam for noise deadening and some flotation.
There’s no wood in the hull, which is made with vinyl ester resin and is a solid fiberglass structure from the keel to the hull-to-deck joint. Ranger Tugs also chemically bonds an interior liner from the front of the cabin to the transom for added stiffness and strength. Divinycell coring is used in the flat areas of the deck mold to minimize weight above the waterline. Deck hardware gets a backing plate of aluminum or lifetime-warranty plywood encased in fiberglass. The deck is set on the hull sides in a shoebox joint, sealed with 3M 5200, and joined with marine mechanical fasteners at regular intervals. This last step is repeated with more fasteners when the rubrail is attached.
THE COCKPIT AND ENGINE COMPARTMENT
“The primary goal in developing the new R-27 was to provide additional cockpit space, nearly 50 square feet compared to the R-25, room enough for four folding chairs or two chairs and a couple of coolers,” said Messmer. “Dave and John Livingston moved the cabin bulkhead forward 16 inches, keeping the front of the engine out of the cabin for improved acoustics. The secondary idea was access, which is apparent when you lift the cockpit hatch and take a look below.”
On the R-25, you check coolant from inside the cabin, under the step leading up to the cockpit. On the R-27 you can drop down into the engine compartment from the cockpit to check coolant and oil levels, clean out the strainer, check the fuel-water separator, and even replace the water pump impeller, should it fail. The ECM (engine control module) is also close by, easy for a technician to access if necessary, and there is an optional primary fuel filter on the bulkhead to back up the main filter on the engine. A new fiberglass water-lift muffler replaces the plastic Vetus muffler used in the R-25, providing more sound attenuation and heat tolerance. There is a pocket under the shaft log that’s deep enough for a bilge pump, one of two in the compartment, equipped with a high-water alarm. The pumps pop out of their housings for easy cleaning. Also new is an acoustical lining with a foil face and sound-deadening layer.
The gutters for all of the cockpit hatches drain directly to through-hulls, and there are large drains in the aft corners of the self-draining cockpit to help keep the sole dry. The gunwales are widened to accommodate downriggers for fishing enthusiasts. The portside locker hinges open to accommodate bulky items, an optional 2.7kW Mase diesel genset, or an optional freezer like the 12VDC Nova Kool that kept a 10-day supply of food frozen for the Banks family. (The freezer draws 2.7 amps when running.) Battery and electrical system switches are found in this compartment, making them easier to access compared with their location on the R-25, under the cabin steps. Blue Sea 7610 120-amp automatic charging relays sense the condition and initiate a charge for the four optional Group 31 AGM batteries—two house, one starting, and one for the thrusters and windlass.
The boat I tested had an optional Kyocera 135 solar panel on the cabin top centerline overhead, with a Morningstar control panel mounted to starboard at the entrance to the forward cabin. “This optional solar panel is capable of 9.4 amps on a sunny day, 0.5 to 1.0 amp even on cloudy days, and it kept the batteries charged all week, even with the refrigerator running full time,” Messmer said. “We were also running the portable freezer, and were careful about lighting, and we could hang on the hook for two days at a time. When the sun is hiding, the engine has a 150-amp alternator, which charges the batteries up in very short order.”
This boat also had an optional Spectra 150D watermaker capable of making 6–8 gallons of water a day. That allowed them to stay out longer than their actual water capacity would have.
There’s more storage space in the starboard-side locker, plus a hot-water tank that slides out if it needs service. The 1,500-watt inverter, standard equipment, is mounted under the deck to keep it out of the weather. Cockpit speakers are new and are standard as well, plus a nearby switch for the LED cockpit and swim platform courtesy lights (there’s another switch inside). An above-deck, overboard-vented propane locker with an upholstered cushion is found on the centerline. The Furrion shorepower connection is in the back to port, as some customers like to run a small portable generator on the swim platform at anchor, with a short pigtail to the shorepower inlet.
There are good handholds for the swim step, with a ladder under a hatch on the starboard side near the transom gate, a four-rung model that reaches deep into the water. Integral fenders protect your dinghy or kayak, and optional patio rails provide stability for entering or exiting the dink.
The overhead hard top protecting the cabin door is quite a bit larger than that found on the R-25, and it’s nicely guttered to keep water away from the cabin entrance. The cockpit bimini was designed by Dave Livingston so that you can fold it forward quickly for fishing rod clearance and still have an eyebrow on damp days. Twin zippered flaps open to improve clearance when boarding or disembarking. The full-length Diamond/Sea-Glaze cabin door is designed to be stout enough to withstand a boarding wave in bad conditions while providing clear views to the helmsperson and those inside the cabin.
A PLEASING INTERIOR
Teak paneling is new on the main cabin sides, echoing the built-in teak lockers and helm consoles. Teak-and-holly soles on the centerline, under the portside dinette, and in the forward cabin add a classy look. Beneath the hinged and gas-cylinder-supported midship cabin overhead door, there’s a desk with a 12-volt outlet and a foldaway chair. There’s also a hanging rod and a double berth extending under the raised dinette that is almost 7 feet in length, perfect for kids or adults.
Headroom in the main cabin is increased on the R-27 to 6 feet 6 inches, taller going forward. The large teak dinette table is mounted on a high-low gas-piston pedestal, not the two legs used on the R-25. Dropped down, it turns into a convertible berth. A quick flip of the forward dinette seat converts it to a forward-facing passenger seat opposite the helm. Forward of the seat, you’ll find a glove box and a Fusion stereo system as standard equipment. The stereo is made specifically for marine use, with AM/FM/CD and an iPod docking station.
To starboard, the hinges on the folding helm seat are custom-made to help eliminate possible pinching as you tilt the seat forward to create more countertop area for meal prep. The helm seat not only tilts forward but also swivels to add seating at anchor, and it slides forward and back to accommodate both short- and long-legged skippers. The handsome teak helm has integral handholds that make sense, but the brow over the optional Garmin 5212 touch-screen MFD needs to be trimmed back just a bit to improve visibility along the upper edge of the display. There’s abundant room for the Garmin GHC10 autopilot and the Yanmar engine screen. The electrical panel, located in the entrance to the forward cabin on the R-25, was moved on the R-27 to prevent accidental switch actuation when entering or leaving the cabin. The compromise is a good one, although it’s a little harder to see in its new position, down low and outboard of the helm.
The overhead console is split into two storage spaces, with a standard 12-volt TV/DVD screen in the middle that folds down and swivels for optimal viewing angles at the dining table for movie nights at anchor. I’d like to see the starboard console fitted with a solid front and used to mount the VHF radio, which is currently placed behind the left side of the steering wheel. Flush-mounted overhead fans help keep windows clear. Overhead hatches and large opening side windows promote excellent natural ventilation under way or at anchor. Visibility from the helm is outstanding, blocked only by the enclosed head in the starboard aft corner of the main cabin. Controls for the standard Side-Power bow and stern thrusters are within easy reach of the throttle.
In the galley, a Princess LPG gas stove and oven is standard, and it’s a no-charge swap if you prefer a Princess electric range and oven, the same size as the gas version. Good storage for pots and pans is found below, behind genuine louvered teak doors with strong magnetic latches. A propane solenoid control near the stove and a propane alarm underneath the stove add safety. An optional Webasto forced-air diesel furnace ducted to two outlets replaces the Wallas stove/heater in the R-25, but a marine Heater Craft that circulates heat scavenged from the engine is standard equipment.
With a top speed of 20 knots, a high cruise of 15 knots, and an economical cruise of 8 knots, the R-27 is well suited to those who wish to cover distances when time is of the essence and fuel is readily available, yet still want the option of cruising for long periods at slower speeds. The boat answers the helm immediately but will track well over long distances with very little input from the helmsperson. Trim tabs are provided, and I found them useful for crosswind situations and for putting the nose down slightly when taking a 2- to 3-foot chop on the nose.
With options like the solar panel and watermaker—and with a well-stocked freezer—an R-27 owner can go off the grid and explore to his heart’s content, touching a marina every so often for a shoreside meal or a little fuel. Whether she’s trailered or kept in the water, this Ranger Tug is equipped with all the right stuff, and ready to tackle your next coastal adventure.
RANGER TUG 27
LOA 30’ (with swim platform)
BEAM 8' 6"
DRAFT 2' 2" (dry)
DISPLACEMENT 6,200 lb. (dry)
BRIDGE CLEARANCE 9' 8" (mast down); 13' 2" (mast up)
FUEL 100 U.S. gal.
WATER 40 U.S. gal.
HOLDING TANK 30 U.S. gal.
GENERATOR 2.5kW Mase (optional)
ENGINE 180hp Yanmar 4BY2
MAXIMUM SPEED 20 knots
CRUISE SPEED 8–15 knots
RANGE AT CRUISE SPEED 267nm at 8.6 knots (with 10% reserve)
DESIGNERS David & John Livingston
BUILDER Ranger Tugs
BASE PRICE $159,937
For more information:
25802 Pacific Highway South
Kent, WA 98032