On to New Cruising Grounds


By Jim Favors

It all started, about 1.5 years ago, when we decided to sell our live-aboard boat and downsize to a trailerable trawler; we simply wanted to divide our time between our new house and cruising. After spending the first part of this transition period getting the house “ship shape,” we were itching to get back on the water. Recently we picked up our new Ranger Tug R27 in Kent, Washington, an area not unfamiliar to us since we had previously purchased a Fathom 40 in this area 3.5 years ago and cruised Puget Sound as much as we could before we had her shipped back to the Great Lakes. Since August, we’ve revisited a few favorite ports on the sound and visited a few new ones, but we were looking forward to the next six weeks with cruising destinations that have long been on our “bucket list” both spots are harder to get to with a bigger boat. So, along with new sights and vistas, trailering experiences and “boater-homing” (more on this later) the new adventures are just beginning to unfold.

Here we are boater-homing at Battle Ground State Park, Washington.

The inauguration to our new mode of boating didn’t really start in earnest until we began to actually trailer, load and unload our boat for the first time on our own. We’d spent three weeks cruising Puget Sound, mostly the San Juan Island area, before we ever towed the Ranger Tug with our truck. The good folks at Ranger Tug launched our boat, stored our truck and trailer for us for three weeks and at the end of our time in Puget Sound retrieved our R27 from the water when we were ready to depart Washington State. So, when we left Seattle, heading south on Interstate 5, towing 35 feet of boat and trailer behind our 20-foot GMC Sierra, that’s when we finally felt the elevated excitement of being on the cusp of a new adventure. Sure, we had all of the excitement of becoming familiar with our new boat in Washington, which was great. However, a new boat coupled with a few new cruising destinations is when it all came together for us.

Our son Ross and Naomi enjoying a cruise up the Willamette River.

We left Washington in route to Oregon, to visit our son Ross in Portland, a distance of only 160 miles. I’m glad we had this short trip to get used to towing 8,000 lbs. of boat and equipment behind our GMC. I was a little apprehensive striking out on our own but it had to be done. We worked our way to the Interstate, hugging the right lane once on the highway, all the while trying to steer clear of the busy Seattle traffic as we became used to seeing nothing but the big red hull of our boat in the rear view mirror. With the trailer brake gain set on 8 and the diesel exhaust brake activated to control stopping we felt a little more comfortable maneuvering 55 feet of boat, trailer and truck by the time we arrived in Portland the next day.

Just shy of Portland Lisa and I decided to stop for the day and try our boat out as an RV. We pulled into Battle Ground State Park and were told they had availability but we were a bit skeptical that we could negotiate the narrow park roads. We pulled off to the side and walked the park to investigate and Lisa stated, “We can do this! It’s late in the day, let’s just get into the first site available, as close to the entrance as possible and we’ll worry about getting out tomorrow.” Sure enough that’s just what we did.

Kismet tied up at the Lake Oswego dock on the Willamette River, Oregon.

Boater-homing is basically using a trailered boat as an RV at an RV Park or state campground, when you stop driving for the day. I mean why not sleep in our own bed and make dinner on our own stove? When boater-homing, we just have to be cautious not to let any grey water escape onto the ground, so we always use the bathhouse facilities provided by the parks and use a bucket outside if we use the sinks. We’ve gotten a lot of interesting comments and the curiosity seems to be warranted, as most people have never seen a boat used as an RV.

Riverplace Marina, was the best marina location for us during out stay in Portland.

Prior to leaving Seattle I had researched boat ramps in Portland; I wanted to know the best place to launch that was within close proximity to downtown Portland on the Willamette River. I used the “Boat Ramp App” on my I-Pad (www.takemefishing.org) to locate the Willamette Park boat ramp and view it on Google earth. I reasoned it would be tough enough to tow 35 feet of boat and trailer through a big city so I wanted to make sure our launch would go off without a hitch (no pun intended), especially considering it would be our very first launch on our own. Upon arrival to the ramp I walked the launch site to inspect and make sure there would be no surprises, such as the ramp pad being washed away and to make sure that the water was deep enough. As luck would have it there were no surprises. After prepping the boat for launch we had it in the water, the truck parked and were ready to head downriver, all within an hour. Not bad for the first time we thought.

Lisa and I spent six days at the Riverplace Marina in downtown Portland on the Willamette River. Our son Ross lives just 5 minutes from the marina so it was centrally located for going out to dinner, seeing the sights of Portland and taking a cruise up the Willamette River. Ross was easily able to run back and forth to home during our stay and that made this location perfect for all of us. Besides visiting with Ross and his girlfriend, Naomi, we had the pleasure of meeting up with long time friends, Eric and Patty and their family; Portland suddenly felt like home. One of the highlights for us while in Portland, was with Patty, two of her grandchildren, Ross, Lisa and I, in attendance. While docked at the marina one evening we had a little christening ceremony for our R27 Ranger Tug, Kismet.

Ross is sitting with Sawyer, Patty (holding christening bottle) and Indy while I position myself on the bow preparing for Kismet’s ceremony.

When the time came to depart Portland Lisa and I had prepared a list of what to do when loading our boat back onto the trailer. Besides lowering the mast and vhf antenna, which gets the trailered height down to 11’ 8”, we decided, after getting advice from a fellow Ranger Tug owner, to take the cockpit bimini canvas completely off the boat and cinch all of the hardware. This helps keep the canvas clean and out of harms way on long hauls. In addition we unscrew the drain plug, install safety straps from the transom to the trailer along with connecting a safety chain to the bow of the boat. The trailer wheels have an oil bath lubrication system to keep the wheel bearings lubricated. The hubs have a sight glass for ease of checking to make sure the oil level is accurate and not contaminated with water, so this is on our checklist as well. Because properly inflated tires are important I also check the pressure of each tire with a digital tire gauge. I double-check that the hitch and safety chains are securely fastened to the truck. Lastly I start the truck engine and have Lisa stand at the rear of the trailer to visually inspect the testing of the brake lights, turn signals and trailer lights. Safety first, that’s our motto and in reality we hope our trailering routine helps ward off any potential, on road, towing problems.

Our next cruising destination was to Lake Tahoe. At a depth of 1,645 feet it is the second deepest fresh water lake in the United States (Oregon’s Crater Lake is the deepest) and a place where Lisa and I had vacationed 15 years ago. However, when we were there last, we rode horses, toured the set of the fabled Bonanza TV show, and went on a sight seeing tour around the lake but we never made it onto the water. It was on that trip we first saw the beautiful Emerald Bay from the road high above the water, the only truly protected natural cove on the lake. In fact, for many years after that trip, we had a big, framed photo we had purchased while there, hanging in our bedroom. When we were planning our trip west we discussed how this would be a great place to anchor and take in the surrounding alpine, mountain beauty of this ice age formed lake.

Lake Powell pre-launch inspection station, it took us an hour to be certified!

It’s 680 miles from Portland to the boat ramp at Tahoe City and a fair portion of the driving is in mountainous areas, so we decided to break the trip down with two boater-homing stops before we launched in Lake Tahoe. Driving through Donner Pass and the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 7,500 feet was beginning to feel more comfortable, as we worked our way down toward Lake Tahoe. The lake straddles California and Nevada and is the largest alpine lake in North America. To help make sure the lake remains as pristine as it is a program has been instituted where all boats have to be physically inspected before being launched into the clean, clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe. It is mandatory that every boat that enters the lake be inspected (tahoeboatinspections.com) prior to launching. After we had our systems flushed out to make sure no invasive species would enter the water we were good to go.

We anchored out for three days on Kismet in Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, with Fannette Island in the background – the only island on the lake.

Even though we’d been to Lake Tahoe before, it really felt like the first time because this time we would be on the water. After we launched our boat from Obexer’s Boat Company’s ramp, (they’ve been in business in Homewood, California since 1911), we were off into the azure blue, crystal clear and calm water along with a weather perfect cruising day. We first cruised slowly south, hugging the shoreline, taking in the tree lined shore, dotted with nice homes and cottages along with the panoramic backdrop of the Sierra Mountains.

Emerald Bay was only a 12-mile trip south from Obexer’s and we took our merry old time enjoying the cruise. Emerald Bay is a State Park and as such has never been developed beyond the original estate built by in 1929 by Mrs. Knight. The estate is called Vikingsholm; the surrounding property changed hands several times (www.aroundlaketahoe.com/emerald-bay.html) and was finally donated to the State of California in 1953, enabling the fjord like bay to become a State Park.

Retrieving Kismet for only the second time, on Lake Tahoe. We’re down to 45 minutes now, practice makes perfect.

Lisa and I spent three relaxing days anchored in four feet of water so clear we could see our anchor hold on the bottom. When we find ourselves somewhere, we feel resembles paradise, with snow capped mountains off in the distance and relative solitude, such as we feel Emerald Bay offers, we like to take the opportunity to relax for a few days reading, writing, playing games, cooking, eating and watching the sun set while enjoying a nice glass of wine. That blocked out time, away from the busy schedule we’d had, also gave us plenty of time to talk about and plan for our next stop, Lake Powell.