One Step Closer


The post date for this BoatUS log is July 1. On, or around, this date the production of our Ranger Tug R-27 will be starting, which will bring Lisa and I one step closer to some new boating adventures – this time by trailerable trawler. By the time we take our first cruise in Washington State’s Puget Sound, around the third week of August, it will have been almost 1.5 years since we closed out our five-year live-aboard lifestyle. The 18 months we’ve spent off of the water have been very rewarding and have enriched our lives; much like the five years we spent cruising. We’ve reconnected with family, friends, and our community in our hometown of Traverse City, Michigan; I wouldn’t have changed a thing – but wait, this is only one part of the new equation!

Hoses, wires and harnesses everywhere and they all serve a purpose on this almost complete interior liner.

Our Master Plan, the one we’re one step closer to accomplishing, was put into place 1.5 years ago and included several steps. First, we planned to move away from being full-time live-aboards, sell our 40’ trawler, buy a house, and move onto land. After some in-depth research, we decided to buy a trailerable trawler and a tow vehicle. In today’s economy, we had no idea if this project would take six months or six years and we certainly didn’t expect to do it all at once, we had to follow some sort of chronological financial order. The house was easy; in that we found what we wanted and it was a buyers market – step one complete.

We put the 40’ boat up for sale with the thought that if it didn’t sell we would return to cruising during the winter months until we had a buyer. As luck would have it, we sold it within six months. This was a big hurdle to overcome and it allowed us to move forward in earnest on our master plan. So, step two was rather quickly completed, except for the little boat we took in on trade. I guess that’s like taking two steps forward and one little step back!

With the 40’ boat sold and house purchased we moved into what I would call phase three of our new plan. We had already been researching trailerable boats but things became serious now, as we were almost boat less (we still had the little 1986 Shamrock trade-in to sell). After several months of research, we decided the best boat for our new trailerable trawler exploits would be the well-appointed Ranger Tug R27. We placed an order for the R27, with a production completion date set for mid August.

With step three implemented, we moved on to finding the proper tow vehicle and decided on the 3/4 ton HD GMC Sierra. With the purchase of the GMC and selling of our 11-year-old F150 this meant step four and five were checked off of our Master Plan list.

As I’m writing this log the 1986 Shamrock finally sold. The sale of this trade-in boat officially made us “boat less” for the first time in over 19 years. With step six behind us, we could begin implementing our new boating plans; it’s almost time to reap the benefits of the Master Plan we set into motion 1.5 years ago. Except this time instead of being live-aboards, our new and improved Master Plan calls for us to live in our hometown eight months of the year and experience the flexible trailerable trawler lifestyle during the remaining months. We’d like to see more of the country and with a trailerable boat; we feel we’ll be able to see more with less redundancy. Let the fun begin.

Our vision of moving to a trailerable trawler boating lifestyle is now almost complete. With step three implemented (the ordering of the R27), all that needs to be accomplished is the actual production of the boat before our adventures begin in earnest. So, with that thought in mind I called Jeff Messmer, Ranger Tugs V-President of Sales and Marketing, to talk about their construction process.

Having recently toured the GM Flint Assembly Plant, where we learned it takes 17.5 hours to build an HD GMC Sierra pickup truck, I was curious to find out about Ranger Tugs production time. Jeff informed me the build time averages six weeks from the time they spray the molds with gel coat until it becomes a boat and is dropped into the water for its inaugural sea trial. With that said, there is a tremendous amount that needs to be coordinated prior to the start date. Jeff explained that they require as much as three to four months of lead-time for some of the parts and equipment that gets installed on the Ranger Tugs, such as the generator and windows.

After they’ve coordinated all of the parts needed for a boat’s production, the first step is to create the fiberglass parts. Ranger Tugs has molds for each component of a boat, including the hull, deck, interior liner, stringer system, eyebrows, hatches, hardtop and more. All the various parts are created at the same time and the process is similar for each one with the hull being the most important. Jeff explained that they start by taping off a boot stripe inside of the mold before they spray the hull with the gel coat color (in our case it will be red). The tape is taken off and the boot stripe is then sprayed, making for a smooth, seamless appearance when you look down the side of the hull. The next step taken on the hull is adding a 3 oz layer of fiberglass matting. This keeps the alternating layers of 24 oz woven roving that are added next, from showing through the gel coat, giving all Ranger Tugs their Bristol finish. The woven roving is impregnated with Vinyl Ester resin for superior blister prevention, better durability and a stronger hull.

As the hull is being created so is the single piece stringer system. After the hull is finished, and within 24 to 48 hours of completion, the stringer system is chemically bonded to the interior of the hull; this bonding essentially makes the two parts become one. Jeff went on to state that the hull remains inside the mold for up to one week before it is extracted. Ranger Tugs wants to make sure the fiberglass has enough time to cure so their boats have the best looking quality finish along with a more structurally sound hull.

Although there are many individually molded fiberglass boat pieces, Jeff explained to me that there are really three key major components that require the greatest amount of assembly. The hull, interior liner and the deck are the three components that are worked on independent of each other by teams dedicated to specific tasks. The hull has a team that installs the Yanmar diesel engine and driveline, genset and everything else that sits down and around the stringers. In addition, hardware such as cleats, swim platform, thrusters, lights and cutouts for fittings are all done at this time.

This is a deck component in the process of having its windows installed.

The interior liner, another of the three major components, goes from the cockpit up to the stateroom. As the name implies, interior liner, the concentration here is on what goes inside of the cabin and cockpit. Different teams install the stove, air units (if so equipped), cabinets, galley refrigerator and sink, electric panel and the list goes on and on. I am wondering how on earth do they do all this in six weeks?

The third major component would be the deck. The deck would have door, window and hatch openings cut out for their respective installations. Hatches, railings, eyebrows, stack, racks and windlass are installed along with running lights, masts, antennas and electronics antennas.

Each major component has wire harnesses, wire and or water lines attached or installed that are pertinent to the component. Jeff told me that after the three major components are completed, each boat is only three working days from being finished. It’s during this three-day final assembly process that the completed interior liner is first lowered into the hull to be secured then topped off with the marriage of the deck component to the top lip of the hull. It’s now becoming very evident that all the time-consuming, pain-staking tasks of making parts and components are going to result in a boat!

Here you’ll see how convenient it is for engine and driveline installation, before the liner and deck are put into place.

Once the three majors are assembled and married to each other the Ranger Tugs staff attends to the final details of rub rail installation, quality control adjustments and inspections. The final step will be to sea trial the boat so the technicians can check the engine for proper balance and make any adjustments in order to insure the smoothest and most efficient propulsion results. It’s also during this time period that the thrusters, genset, stove, plumbing system are all quality control tested for proper functionality.

Cockpit/transom view of this soon to be completed deck.

Over the next six weeks, Lisa and I will be inching “one step closer,” to realizing our new trailerable trawler boating lifestyle. If you’ve often read our logs you already know how passionate we are about boating and being “boat less” is just not our style – it will be exhilarating to get back onto the water, starting in Seattle’s Puget Sound, in August.