Getting the Show on the Road


  In the American comedy movie classic, Animal House, John Belushi and company take Flounder’s brothers 1964 Lincoln on a road trip. By the end of the trip the formerly pristine car laid in ruins, smoke billowing from the engine compartment, as it skidded to its final resting place in front of their decrepit fraternity house. Just like in Animal House our road trip has a mission, a purpose if you will, ours being to get back to cruising and not to terrorize the college community or any other. With a little bit of luck and good planning we think the outcome of the first part of our road trip (although not as funny) will be kinder on our truck, with only some splattered grasshoppers and road dirt. We hope our trip will end with a purpose when we take possession of our recently completed R27 Ranger Tug in Kent, Washington.

My pile of clothes.

After 1.5 years of preparation, research, boat shows, selling, exchanging and buying belongings (boats, trucks and houses) we’re embarking on our maiden trailer trawlering expedition – we’re ready!

We live in Michigan and chose to drive the 2,400 miles to Kent, Washington to take possession of our new R27 and trailer up at the factory. Once there our master plan is to cruise Puget Sound and San Juan Islands in Washington State, something we did three years ago when we took possession of our Fathom 40. We could have had the boat shipped to Michigan but with winter just around the corner it seemed to make more sense to us to take a two month road trip and enjoy some more boating in the Pacific Northwest, a few lakes in the south west and the Tennessee River before returning home for the holidays.

Like any road trip there is a tremendous amount of prep work to make it all come together. So before we could even pull out of the driveway to head west we had to put our home cable, garbage pickup on vacation service, make arrangements to have our mail held, yard maintenance done in our absence, clear out the refrigerator, make a list of how to open the house up when friends use it while we’re gone. The list goes on and on and we haven’t even started in on packing the truck.

I had to pack and repack the bed of our GMC to make it all come together and this doesn’t even show the back seat.


In the final few days, we had simultaneous projects going on. The washing machine and dryer ran non-stop during the week before our departure. Once the clothes packing starts for me, and I think for most guys, the procedure is pretty simple. All I need is three pairs of pants, four pairs of shorts, a couple sweatshirts, socks, underwear, two pairs of shoes, a handful of t-shirts, a jacket and I’m ready to go. Lisa, on the other hand, has to go through all her clothes, decide what outfits will cover all the varied climate conditions we’ll encounter then, apparently, she’ll have to match the chosen outfits with other garments, shoes, etc. In the process she ends up with a pile of clothes that’s way more than she would ever need in a year (my opinion, not hers, and maybe a little bit of an exaggeration). I’m not saying this because her way is a bad thing; it’s just how she operates and she’ll be the first to admit the process is cumbersome. After the initial step, phase two kicks in when she has to cull through everything in order to downsize it all into a more manageable size. In the end we both end up with what we need but the roads taken are completely different for us. I guess that doesn’t really come as a big surprise.

100 miles into our road trip we make the five-mile trip across the Mackinaw Bridge to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

    When we sold our last boat, a 40-foot trawler, we brought our entire galley of eating utensils, plates, cooking equipment, coffee maker, toaster, etc. home. So this time out we whittled the existing galley stuff down to what we think are essentials. We aren’t going to be living long-term on this boat as we did before so we have to keep this thought in mind when packing. In addition, we packed an assortment of boat necessities, for instance, a spare anchor line, a boat hook, a 30 amp power cord, tools, binoculars, chart books, folding chairs and table – it all went into our GMC Sierra. Once we take possession of the R27, we’ll have a head start in our provisioning chores – We hope to get right into enjoying our new boat. I keep telling Lisa we only have room for three more containers, but somehow she doesn’t seem concerned. In my mind I’m thinking, that because we’ve got so much stuff, our truck is going to resemble the overflowing Beverly Hillbillies truck as depicted when they moved cross country to California. I’m sure it will all work out but I’m getting more concerned it will not all fit.

Lake Superior is home to the Pictured Rocks and Apostle Islands, both places we plan to return to with our Ranger Tug.

Sure I’m probably over dramatizing a little, well OK a lot, to make the point that a lot of work is required to organize and pack to provision a boat and have enough personal belongings to make a 2.5 month excursion comfortable. To make sure we don’t forget essentials Lisa has developed a checklist of items we should always pack. I tease Lisa that I can pack in 15 minutes whereas her process seems to take forever. She reminds me that I’ll probably forget a few things and I guess that’s the beauty of Lisa’s checklist, as long as it’s on the list it will be packed.

All rivers start somewhere; this is what the Mississippi River looks like in Grand Rapids, Minnesota - Judy Garland’s hometown.


As we continued our departure preparations I thought I’d make contact with Andrew at Ranger Tugs to see how close our boat was to being completed. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that not only did it float appropriately during the sea trial but the factory had our R27 finished, sitting on our trailer and ready to become ours. This was great news and I guess I should not have expected anything less from the crew in Kent, Washington. Everything we agreed on has happened as promised and on time – they made it an easy process.

Our road trip retraces parts of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition, shown here on Route 2 in Montana.

While talking with Andrew, I asked him about the final steps taken before they release a completed boat. Andrew explained to me that in order to ensure that each of their products meets with high ownership satisfaction they perform both on land and in water tests. He continued by saying that Ranger Tugs wants to not only make sure everything works but that things are performing up to specs. In my mind there is nothing more frustrating than when you bring a new product home and it doesn’t work properly. So Ranger Tugs is reducing that chance a great deal – not only do their suppliers make their own tests before they’ve released their components to Ranger Tugs, but they then go through their own two-stage testing. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Ranger Tug owners are such a happy, proud bunch!

Once a Ranger Tug is built out it’s ready for its test stage. According to Andrew this means that all the ordered options, standard equipment and electronics have been installed onto the boat. At this stage the boat is wheeled outside of the building, where the first test stage is performed. With water hooked up the shop technicians run the engine, generator, air conditioning to check for proper operations and make any adjustments as needed. The water tank is partially filled so all water lines can be ran and checked for proper water flow, leaks or lack of same. Anything electrical, such as horn, running lights, windlass are all checked to make sure they’re powered up and functional. Once stage one is complete the real fun begins.

Lake Washington is a 22-mile long fresh water lake that sits just to the north of Kent and directly east of Seattle. The factory crew trailers the boat up to Lake Washington so they can run the boat through its sea trial paces. During this phase they’re more interested in hull and engine performance, making sure the engine and drive line are harmonious, that the through hull fittings are providing a leak free connection and that the electronics are receiving a GPS signal, tracking the boat’s position and more.

Our R27 sitting in the yard going through stage one quality testing.

While on Lake Washington a fix list is created to resolve any issues that didn’t meet with the Ranger Tug technician’s satisfaction. Any driveline issues are addressed and any remaining punch list items are taken care of back at the Kent location. I think it’s important to recognize that anything mechanical by nature will develop problems, however, in my opinion, it’s quality control steps such as the ones Ranger Tugs takes that will head off most problems before ownership takes place.

The truck is now packed and as I write this log Lisa and I have just completed our first road trip day, a 600-mile road trip that ended in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Although we’re anxious to take possession of our Ranger Tug we’d decided to take a semi-leisurely trip across the USA. Route 2 is the northern most route across America and on our first day we’ve absorbed a unique slice of Americana that cannot be achieved on the more popular mode of monotonous freeway travel.