Photography by Jonathan Cooper
A tugboat squats low and digs its heels into the unfathomably deep, dark blue water of Puget Sound. Like a sumo wrestler its center of gravity is low, its power unbounded. A container-laden barge marches obediently behind the mission-designed vessel; the sight causes me to think about the craft beneath my feet.
Ranger Tugs, as the name implies, was inspired in part by these powerful workhorses that ply the Pacific. Seaworthiness and power are forefront in the design brief. But so is style and performance. Designed by Dave and John Livingston—founder and president of Ranger Tugs, respectively—the newest stallion in their stable is the first IPS-powered 41.
Cruising at 20 knots with the sun streaming in through the large forward-facing and side windows, our crew began to settle in for our first half-day run north to the San Juan Islands—the well-documented destination of choice for those who cruise this part of the world. Cameras, lenses, drones and microphones scattered across the galley and salon tables as members of the Power & Motoryacht and Ranger Tugs crew—strangers to each other mostly—engaged in small talk and started get a sense of how this three-day, two-night adventure was going to pan out.
Gallery: Cruising the Ranger 41
Six people can carry a lot of gear, especially when camera equipment is involved. Roller bags, duffels, computer bags and backpacks came aboard for the journey and threatened to suffocate the 46-foot by 14-foot world we now called home. The 41 revealed a clever and cavernous storage space beneath the salon seating that would ensconce all said supplies at the push of a button. Also in this space keeping our luggage company was a fridge (there was more cold storage aboard the 41 than some supermarkets) as well as a full-sized washer and dryer. Early in our trip I began daydreaming about what it would be like to sell my land-based belongings and live aboard. Its features, like copious storage space and real-world-sized amenities, can turn dreams into reality dangerously quickly.
From Puget Sound we cruised up the Saratoga Passage to Deception Pass and on to Rosario Strait. As we ticked off the miles, we grew more and more comfortable with the boat and one another, yet conversation remained formal and just a bit forced. But few activities allow people to bond better than breaking bread, and nothing builds an appetite quite like a day on the water.
Ranger Tugs Marketing and Communications Director Sam Bisset suggested stopping the boat in a protected little cove called Bowman Bay so we could whip up a meal. His casual tone betrayed the natural beauty that the little bay possesses and the awe it engenders. A series of floating docks offer free respite to anyone stopping for a couple hours to enjoy a bite, the sights and maybe (in the summer) a swim. Our crew powered through sandwiches and admired the view of the surrounding mountains while a young girl practiced docking the family boat with her father. The only other boat in the harbor belonged to VP of Sales at Bellingham Yacht Sales, Matt Ouilette, who arrived in a Cutwater 24 that would serve as our chase boat and resident rocket ship. The 24 was a fitting boat to join our little armada. As the brand’s first model with outboard power, a single 250-hp Yamaha, it showed the wide-ranging diversity within the family business. (Both Ranger Tugs and Cutwater are owned and run by the Livingstons.) It was around this point that formalities and small talk melted away, language turned properly salty and the good-natured ribbing began.
Our first destination was the Rosario Resort and Marina on fabled Orcas Island in the San Juans. We made quick work of washing down and settling in. The shadows of the surrounding evergreens grew long and gangly as dusk turned to night. The sea-weary crew quenched our thirst with a batch of Marine Group Photographer Jonathan Cooper’s award-winning, home-brewed IPA. I’m not sure if the beer would have been as delicious if not paired with crisp mountain air, but I hope I never find out.
Music began playing throughout the boat, underwater lights turned the sea behind the transom into the most mesmerizing aquarium in town and the forward-facing cockpit seating swiveled so four of us could comfortably face each other and converse. The aft galley window was opened to allow fresh air into the salon and the sweet smell of roasting vegetables, garlic and potatoes out. The three-burner stove proved just a bit too small for prepping dinner for seven of us, so Bisset was relegated to the flybridge grill where he oversaw a selection of searing steaks. Most home kitchens would be crowded with that many people prepping a meal—it was yet another testament to the thoughtfulness and usefulness of the boat’s social spaces.
I like to think that the Power & Motoryacht team is a tight-knit one; friendships have formed over many waterborne adventures, fit for print or otherwise. But give it enough days in a row and you find yourself craving some space to yourself. This was truly where the 41 showed off. From the helm to the large C-shaped salon seating to the cockpit and flybridge, there was always the option to hang out with the group or steal away for a little time alone.
Sleeping arrangements: That’s where even the closest of colleagues rightfully draw the line. It was with a sigh of relief and a wipe of cold sweat that the 41 was more than up for the challenge. Between the master stateroom forward, a VIP with en suite aft and an oversized convertible berth in the salon, it could easily accommodate three couples and even a pair of children in a pinch. Of course, deep sleep that night may or may not have been aided by the time-honored seafaring tradition of sharing stories—and libations—well into the night.
The next day—not nearly as early as we had planned—our crew struck out for Friday Harbor, a place that this Pacific Northwest newbie had only read about. With time pressing and our leisurely cruise beginning to feel more like a delivery, it was decided the best way to experience the island in the short time remaining was via mopeds—oh, and one three-wheeled buggy. [The name of said buggy driver has been redacted to protect the embarrassed.]
I’ve long scoffed at moped gangs scooting around tourist destinations, but I’ve since learned the error of my ways; yes, the oversized helmets are goofy and the throttle governor can kill the buzz a bit, but they were the ideal vehicles to feel the wind in our faces while taking in the vast variety of landscapes this island retains. One minute the scenery and barnyard smell made us think we were in the Midwest, the next it was as if we were looking off to the snow-covered peaks of Alaska or rolling through the hills of Ireland. It’s the kind of wide-ranging beauty we experienced here that, try as we might, photos could never do justice.
With our inner children and outer adventurers fulfilled, we were left with one last bit of business: A photo shoot of the 41 from the Cutwater 24, a speedster of a sistership.
I was on the flybridge helm when we blasted past a wall of granite and the postcard-worthy Turn Point Lighthouse off to starboard. With the sun bowing to the mountains to port and Canada beckoning just above our bow it became clear why Ranger Tugs have been so successful. The brand, and especially the new 41, enables ventures a long way from home yet never without the comforts of home. Its outdoor social spaces and 360-degree views encourage disconnection from the digital world and reconnection with the analog one that beckons from every degree of the compass. Its copious interior spaces offer protection from the harsh environs when cruising during the day, and places to carry on long conversations with newfound friends well into the night.
It’s the kind of boat in the kind of setting that reminds me why I fell in love with boating in the first place. Good friends, new adventures and reconnecting with nature: Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Ranger 41 Specifications:
Displ.: 30,000 lbs.
Fuel: 300 gal.
Water: 120 gal.
Standard Power: 2/300-hp Volvo Penta IPS400s