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Web Exclusive - Ranger Tugs

There’s something cute, cuddly and, well, magical about a tugboat. I’m not sure if it’s imbedded in our hearts and minds from nursery rhymes, story books or television series like, say, Tugs

, which was created by the brains behind
Thomas the Tank Engine. Or whether tugboats have immense pull because we all had one in our bubble baths.

Whatever the reason, thanks to a Kent-based boatbuilder with more than 50 years history, tugboats are back on the wish-lists of big and little kids. Mind you, that’s not Kent, the coastal county in southeast England, but namesake city near Seattle in Washington, where there are oodles of lakes, channels and bays for gadding about in your own private tugboat. Toot toot…

A product of its environment, where the winters are usually fierce, and rainfall is spread throughout the year, the Ranger Tugs span three different models each with fetching lines and a cute little wheelhouse where you can escape the elements.

The entry-level tug, the R-21EC (pictured) also has a nice big cockpit in which to pursue your preferred outdoor recreations. However, the EC part of the moniker refers to the extended cabin — indoors this tug is a real surprise. (More on that later).

Naturally, the R-25 boasts even more internal living space and, hinting at its intent, the boat pictured on the company’s website features a pushbike and sea kayak strapped to its roof. The idea is to spend time aboard exploring the waterways and then to strike out on an adventure at those new ports of call. The flagship R-29 that’s on the drawing board is even more of a passagemaker.

Just how the Ranger Tugs materialised from the minds of their designers, if not the suds in the tub, is no less of a story. Apparently, the boats started life as a 5/8 scale Bristol Bay Trawler.

My research reveals Bristol Bay is just north of where the Aleutian Islands meet the Alaskan mainland. It spans more than 33 million acres of open sea, islands and estuaries. And it is — or was — home to the world’s largest wild salmon run and the source of a commercial fishing industry with an estimated annual value of nearly $US2 billion.

It was from here that the Ranger 21-EC was born. Compared with the 5/8 model, the displacement hull was lengthened, the cabin extended, and some Down East styling touches were added. Production began in 1958. Suffice it to say, this is no ordinary tug.

Since it can be trailered (hull and engine weigh 1250kg) you can hit the holiday highways and launch your forays into whatever waterways, lakes, bays and rivers take your fancy without having to battle the ocean road.

Construction involves not a splinter of wood. The comely handlaid hull and stringers are fashioned from fibreglass, and vinylester resin is used so you can leave the boats in the water without worrying about osmosis. Antifouled, it would be a beauty to park outside your lake or riverfront home.

Another nice thing is that the full-length keel and stainless steel ‘shoe’ protect the running gear, rudder and propeller in the event of going aground.

True to its heritage, the baby tug in the Ranger range, the trailerable R21-EC is bundled with a single diesel kicker. The Yanmar 3YM30 freshwater-cooled diesel inboard engine produces 29hp (21kW) from a displacement of 1.116 litres and meets or exceeds the latest environmental-output controls.

The R21-EC is said to cruise in displacement mode from 7 to 11kts while sipping just two to three litres of fuel per hour. Hence the modest 68lt fuel capacity. Top speed is around 13kts.

Stern rails and aft crew seating trace the generous cockpit, and there are walkaround decks so you can anchor safely, but it’s back indoors that this little tug defies its modest waterline length.

You get helm and crew seats, a galley cabinet with sink linked to 38lt of water, plus a butane stove, a head in the footwell and a vee-berth that converts to a double bed. And, with a fridge, weekending aboard the 21-footer is entirely possible.

For those seeking greater comforts and performance, the R-25 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The boat is still trailerable, but the hull is a semi-planing model designed to jump out of the water.

Teamed with a 150hp (112kW) Cummins MerCruiser QSD 2lt diesel engine, the R-25 reputedly cruises at 12kts and has a top speed of 22kts.

Thanks to a 283lt fuel supply, cruising range is said to be around 300nm at 7kts (displacement speed) and around 200nm at 12kts. And with 113lt of water, you can do a long weekend or longer aboard.

Designed for all-weather cruising, the R-25 has an extended saloon with plenty of hatches for natural ventilation, big picture windows, a dinette that converts to a double berth, a vee-berth with infill for a double bed in the bow, decent galley for cooking up a storm, and separate enclosed head with shower.

As with all good cold-climate boats, there’s a hot-water service and cabin heater. Options include generator and air-conditioning. At the time of writing, the R-25 was selling for $307,132 including optional generator, air-con, upgraded Wallas diesel stove, Shorepower, bow and sternthrusters, and more.

The entry-level Ranger 21-EC tug cost about $79,960. So you pay a premium for these fetching tugs. But what price the love affair? Tugs will forever solicit “oohs” and “ahhs” from skippers who want a leisurely cruise while reliving elements of the past, perhaps as far back as when they were in the tub. More from www.rangertugs.com

– David Lockwood