Time Keeps on slippin’ Into the Future


I was perched up on the roof of our house the other day, doing some paintwork, when a friend stopped by. The conversation eventually led to boating, as Jerry had just come from launching his boat for the summer season. I thought to myself, as he drove away towing an empty boat trailer, how fortunate we both were to have boating as a recreation in our lives just as many folks have hobbies or life interests, whether it’s travel, the arts, golf, old cars or whatever. In our case, it just happens to be boating. Still perched precariously up on the roof I started to daydream about our passion for boating and began to think I’d rather be out on the water than up on the roof!

Now that the painting is complete it’s time for boating!

My daydreaming was really impeding my painting progress but I guess that’s alright because it will still be a couple of months before the Ranger Tug R27 construction is complete. In the meantime, we have to either live vicariously through all our boating friends or keep busy by planning for our end of summer and fall trailerable adventures. All this thinking led me deeper into my thoughts and suddenly I began to reflect on an old Steve Miller Band tune titled “Time Keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future….” Lisa and I have been fortunate to have had the time, or made the time, to enjoy our passion for boating when we could, because, as the song states, time does keep on slippin’ into the future and for us there really is no time like the present. We just have to wait a couple more months to resume our boating adventures, so the daydreaming continues.

I eventually completed the paintwork, it was one of the self-imposed house projects that I wanted to finish before we head out onto the highway and drive west to Kent Washington, to pick up our Ranger Tug R27 – there’s plenty of forward planning to tackle. Besides getting used to the new GMC and its various standard and optional towing features, we need to calculate what’s required for the proper ball mount arrangement and research the best backup navigational chart system. We’ll also have the challenge of figuring out how to provision a 27-foot trailerable boat vs. the 40-foot live aboard trawler we had been living on, so we can maximize our cruising experience. I guess I’d better get busy, it seems it’s actually later then I thought, as I look at the start date of our road trip west.

Here is a 2.5” shank opening, class V hitch that measures 22” from the ground on our GMC Sierra.

The GMC Sierra came with a HD trailer-towing package, which included, among other things, a factory mounted trailer hitch. In my research for the proper ball-mount, I learned I needed a number of measurements and weights. The only one I needed from the truck was the distance from the ground to the top of the receiver opening of the hitch. With that 22” figure in hand I called Jeff Messmer at Ranger Tugs to gather additional data on the American made E-Z Loader trailer, so I could then buy the proper ball mount. More on this later.

After talking with Jeff about the trailer measurements, I asked him about the history of Ranger Tugs, as I was curious how the Ranger Tugs line evolved. Jeff told me that Howard Smith (Smitty) formed the company in 1958 when he began building rowing and sailing dinghies. Over the years, the company evolved into producing larger sailboats called Ranger. In the late 1960s Dave Livingston, one of the current owners and the founder of Livingston Boat Co. (the seaworthy Livingston dinghies are still produced), designed the first powerboat for Smitty. In 1979, the 18-foot Ranger Tug debuted the 21-foot introduction just one year later. Fast forward to 1999, when Smitty was 85 years old and had been running Ranger Tugs for 41 years, He called Dave and his son John and offered to sell them the company and shortly after Ranger Tugs changed ownership to the Livingston’s.

This example of a typical trailer coupler is where one of the measurements comes from when determining the proper ball mount.

With John at the helm, Ranger Tugs has updated their line of Tugs over the last 12 years and currently offer a 21, 25, 27, and 29 footer. Earlier this year they introduced a new boat line by the name of Cutwater. The Cutwater 26 and 28 were both recently introduced at the Seattle Boat Show. With the addition of Cutwater line, they now have three production facilities, with the original one, started by Smitty, in Kent Washington still in use. The last question I asked Jeff was about the origin of the Ranger Tugs name. Jeff told me that Smitty was a decorated pilot in WWII and flew a P-40, made famous as the Flying Tigers. The information is a little old but the story line is that Smitty had a boxer dog that accompanied him when he flew. Jeff went on to state that rumor has it that the dog had more flying hours than most other pilots and guess what this boxer’s name was? If you guessed Ranger, you’d be correct and, as Paul Harvey was famous for saying, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

As is the case with most new things – there’s a learning curve, and the ball mount was no different. Based on my research I found that it is critical that the marriage of the ball mount, that part that is attached to the GMC hitch, and coupler of the E-Z Loader trailer need to create a connection that’s as level as possible for the trailer. A level trailer puts less strain on the connection between the two therefore producing the safest and most comfortable towing conditions. Jeff confirmed that the coupler height was 23.75”. Because the coupler height is greater than the hitch height my research indicated I needed a 1.75” rise for my ball mount, or as close as possible, (most likely a 2” rise). In addition, and because we have a class V hitch, we needed to make sure we had a ball mount rated for at least 12,000 lbs. Gross Trailer Weight (GTW), a 2.31 ball with a 1.25 shank diameter. It’s so much more fun buying truck or boat equipment when you know what you need and why.

This is a Class V ball mount. In this position it is used as a 3” drop. If you were to turn it 180 degrees it would be a 1.5” rise.

As related in earlier logs our plans are to explore new cruising grounds across America, a lot of them being inland lakes and rivers. The Ranger Tug R27 will have a Garmin GPS chart plotter installed that has built-in charts for most of the areas we’ll cruise. My concern for having a backup was twofold. I’ve always felt that paper charts were a must, in the event your main electronic charting went out of commission. The difficulty with trailerable boating is that paper charts are not available for many of the places we plan on cruising. Even if they were it would almost be cost prohibited to buy them all, much less having the room to store them. My solution was buying an iPad2.

Lisa and I like to read, however books, like chart books, can take up a lot of room on a boat especially if you start to gather a collection of them. Then there’s also an issue of added weight. We’d been researching book readers and had decided the iPad2 would not only solve the book storage problem for our trailerable trawler but will also provide us a great alternative to paper charts. We waited until the iPad2 was introduced because it has a lot of new features including a webcam that we’d like to have to visually communicate with family and friends back home and equally important is the iPad2’s Navionics Charting application capabilities.

Lake Tahoe from the Navionics app on our iPad2, I never knew the Lake was so deep.

The beauty of the Navionics app, besides the one time low cost of $29.95, is that it includes all navigable waters in the United States. Once you download a section (Lake Powell, as an example), which does require an Internet connection, it remains on your iPad2 for immediate access any time without an Internet connection. Just like a boat GPS you can zoom in, see channel markers, mile markers, change locations or check on marina information and so much more. If we were on Lake Powell and using our built in Garmin GPS for navigation we could use the iPad2 as either a back up (like paper charts) without an Internet connection or with a G3 Internet connection and the iPad2 would perform like a normal GPS chart plotter.

This is a close up of Gig Harbor on my iPad2, remarkable detail given by this app and I can zoom in even closer if I need to.

The benefits of the iPad2 for our trailerable trawler adventures are that it takes up less room than a magazine, we can read books with it, use it with Skype to video conference with family and friends while away from home and it solves our paper chart backup dilemma. We’ll have the capability to have email access when away from our router as well. With all the extra storage room, we’re going to create by having the iPad2 onboard I wonder if Lisa can find a way to fill the void? Actually, from previous experience, I already know the answer to this question – it’s a definite YES!