Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Fun

10/3/2011

Our owner’s bag includes every manual needed for all the components on the boat – I’m sure we’ll be pulling these out to check on stuff as we go.

When you become a new boat owner, one of the very first things you imagine yourself doing on that boat is having fun, at least we do. If you already own a boat you can understand this imagery. Up until a few days ago we were so caught up in the hoops we needed to get behind us, to get back on a boat, that when we finally stepped aboard our new Ranger Tug R27 all we could think about was the fun in store for us on our beautiful red tug.

We arrived at the Ranger Tug factory in Kent, Washington one week after we left Traverse City, Michigan. It was a fun road trip west, with good weather and a few extended stops to break up the monotony of driving 2,300 miles. We toured Glacier National Park for a few days and stayed one night with our friends, Patti and Eric, at their cabin in Sandpoint, Idaho. Buying a boat across country and making a trip out of taking possession of her is really an excellent idea if you have the time – you really can’t beat the Pacific Northwest as a destination spot to assume ownership of a new vessel, especially if you desire to do some cruising on the vast open waters of the PNW.

Lisa and I were so excited about the prospects of seeing our R27 for the first time we actually arrived at assembly facility an hour before our scheduled orientation appointment. Andrew Custis, Ranger Tug’s Customer Service Manager, met us with a big, friendly smile and immediately took us to the boat yard to begin our introduction. Whoa, was our original response when we saw the red Ranger Tug, sitting high and dry on its tandem axle trailer, shinier then a newly minted penny. We could not have been more pleased with how our new boat looked and we had not even been out on the water yet to experience its mechanical features and handling characteristics.

Andrew providing our Ranger, boat launching 101, orientation.

Andrew explained that we’d be spending the better part of the day going through an orientation first at the dock followed by a sea trial later on the water. After an effortless launching of Kismet we sat tied up to the launch dock on a perfect sunny day getting comfortable with the mechanics of the boat. Because it was such a beautiful day, I was anxious to get the boat out on Lake Washington, but I also understood how important it was to get a handle on what makes this boat function and how.

Lisa and I have been boaters for over 30 years and although we know a great deal about cruising and boats we’re always learning new things. We really didn’t know how lucky we were until we sat down with Andrew and he started our orientation. Prior to arriving in Washington, to pick up our R27, I kept reading on the Ranger Tugs owner forum (www.tugnuts.com) about this guy, Andrew. Everyone praised his knowledge, attention to details and overall helpfulness to Ranger Tug owners. We were anxious to meet him and get the orientation underway. At the end of the day, I’d have to say his expertise and professionalism was over the top and a big benefit to our buying experience. Andrew provided the best new product introduction we’ve ever had – it was VERY thorough, interesting, friendly and because Andrew knew every inch of the boat and knew how to relay that knowledge to us, stress free.

Up to our elbows in everything mechanical, Andrew and I are sitting in the cockpit, going over the engine compartment.

So, one might ask, how can an orientation be so “over the top” fantastic? Ask yourself about the times you’ve bought a product and laid down a substantial sum of money and didn’t receive hardly more than a thank you, let alone a basic primer to help you understand what you’ve just purchased. This definitely was not the case with Andrew and Ranger Tugs, our orientation lasted five hours. When it was over Andrew stated that most people only retain 10% of what they read, more if you’re experiencing the learning first hand and I’m sure we’re not much different. With that said he emphatically requested we call him any time to review anything we might need additional help with. We made our first call three days later with a few questions about our solar panel, something new to us.

Our orientation started with the dos, don’ts and safety measures that pertain to launching the boat from the EZ Loader trailer. Once it was in the water and tied to the launch dock Andrew started in earnest on the cockpit of the R27. We started with the Yanmar 180HP diesel engine compartment. All boats have through hull water pickups so the importance here was to know where the engine, generator and reverse air/heater controls were located, how to open and or close and service the strainers when needed. We reviewed the oil, primary and secondary fuel filters, engine pencil zinc locations as well as how to service the impeller, where to check oil, the proper oil to use and maintenance schedule, these are the basics every boater should have a grasp of.

The propane tank for the stove sits in this enclosed container, shown here with its lid set to the side.

We’d never had a propane stove on a boat so Andrew reviewed the latching tank locker, which sits inside the transom cockpit seat, the built-in safety check valve and sniffer along with how to operate this new to us boating feature. The benefit of the gas stove, for us, is that we won’t have to run the generator at anchor in order to operate the stove/oven, making for a quieter environment. Next, Andrew moved over to the batteries, battery controls, Mase Generator, inverter and battery charger. All the while Lisa and I were chomping at the bit to get out onto the water and we hadn’t even gotten to the boat’s cabin orientation.

Here is our DC/AC electric panel shown, it’s powered by the house batteries through the inverter.

Andrew's youthful exuberance, warm smile and good nature were only surpassed by his obvious knowledge and ability to transfer that information to us about our Ranger Tug. We moved from the cockpit into the cabin and started with the propane stove – only five feet from the helm now – we were shown that we need to press a button in order to activate the stove before the gas can even be turned on – another safety measure in addition to the gas sniffer that sets off an alarm if gas is detected. We moved on to the boats reverse air/heat location and operation controls before we settled into the management of Kismet’s power systems and finally, we were getting close to striking distance of getting out onto the water.

It will be nice having the sun help keep our batteries charged up with our roof-mounted solar panel.

Our R27 comes standard with 30-amp shore power for when we’re docked, a battery charger and inverter – but because we love to anchor for extended periods of time, we wanted to have auxiliary power sources. We chose to have a 2.7 Mase generator, upgraded AGM batteries and a roof top solar panel installed to facilitate our needs. Being connected to shore power is the easy part of power management, simply plug the 30 amp cord in, turn the power source to shore and make sure the AC main is on. It’s when you’re not tethered to 30-amp power that management of a boat’s power supply becomes more onerous, especially with the addition of a solar panel.

Andrew was quick to add to our growing amazement of his knowledge by showing us when and how to operate the solar panel to compliment our house battery power distribution through the inverter. He made it easy to understand by explaining things in layman’s terms. It was explained that we should simply watch our 12V DC battery meters, when not on shore power. When any one of the three banks of house, starting, or thruster batteries (typically the house batteries) volt reading drops down to 11.8, it’s time to power the generator up. Andrew went on to state that our solar panel will help maintain battery power longer under most circumstances – however, if we’re using more power quicker than it is generating it, then it’s time to start the generator and charger to bring the batteries back up to full charge.

The time had finally arrived for us to shove off for our sea trial and we were ready. After 1.5 years of being off the water our return to boating, with our new Ranger Tugs trailerable trawler began on a picture perfect day and great water conditions. While on our first cruise I’m sure Andrew was continuing to educate us even more but we were so engrossed in our maiden voyage that whatever he said was not retained… this will most likely lead to a few phone calls for him to repeat or clarify things. After the successful sea trial came to a close the boat was once again trailered and returned to Kent to await our solo voyage the next day in Port Defiance.

Andrew Custis, Ranger Tugs Customer Service Manager extraordinaire.

On Thursday, August 18, Andrew helped us shove off from the boat launch in Point Defiance, WA, we waved goodbye and quickly stowed the lines and took up the fenders. You could almost hear Lisa and I take big sighs in unison as we realized all the careful research and planning had finally come together in this one special moment and not soon after that moment we found ourselves no longer imagining… we were finally on our way, headed to new boating adventures and fun times on our new Kismet.