Back to the Future
With single-engine-diesel efficiency and savvy design features Ranger Tug’s R-31 goes way beyond her retro good looks.
Yeah, Ranger’s new R-31 looks like a rock-solid little tug, but there’s more to this trailerable (can you believe: trailerable?) 31-foot cruiser than mere appearance. Indeed, the R-31’s put together in a very gutsy, albeit thoroughly cutting-edge way.
For starters, there’s a solid-glass, one-piece, closed-cell-foam-filled stringer grid reinforcing her solid-glass hull. And the grid is not secondarily bonded or tabbed in place—it’s primarily bonded, meaning it’s joined chemically as well as physically to the hull during a one-shot layup operation. Moreover, the deck/superstructure is stiffened with Nidacore and Coremat and solidly mated to the hull with mechanical fasteners as well as resilient Bostic 1100 urethane adhesive. Two liners (one in the forward cabin area and the other stretching aft into the cockpit) complete the super-robust scenario.
I sea trialed the R-31 on a cool, misty morning in Washington State’s San Juan Islands, with nary a ripple in sight. Still and all, the muscularity of the boat’s gutsy unibody construction seemed palpable enough, thanks to the cockpit sole’s solidity under foot, the absence of creaks and groans while I did a little wake-hopping exercise, and the thunk I heard every time I closed the Diamond Sea-Glaze door in the after bulkhead. The average top speed of 18.7 knots I recorded was brisk enough, but the real charmer was low-end efficiency. Making 7.5 knots while burning a little over 4 gph is comparatively sweet these days.
Hardover turning circles were tight (I figured the diameter of most of ’em was about two boatlengths), outboard lean, which is not atypical of a boat like the R-31 with a keel and a single, grounding-shoe-protected prop, was minimal, and running attitudes were optimum for a planning-type hull. And while the boat tips forward slightly at idle, most likely due to a bit of prop-generated lift at the stern, I noted no tendency to bow-steer.
And one last thing—dockside maneuvering. At the end of our test I had the opportunity to dock our test boat next to another Ranger Tug. Pulling alongside and then sidling sideways was, as the Frenchies say, a pièce de gateau. Split-second-actuating electronic engine controls, two Side-Power thrusters (one forward and the other aft), and a four-bladed wheel with lots of torquey diesel power and a 1.97:1 gear ratio—I’m tellin’ ya, the boat was as easy to handle as a podster.
Enter the magic! As noted above, the R-31 is a trailerable cruiser in spite of the fact that’s she’s got two staterooms (an amidships cabin with dayhead and a cabin forward with island berth and en suite head), a saloon (with convertible dinette, smartly-accoutered galley, and helm station), and, to top off the whole extravaganza, a fully outfitted flying bridge that folds down on hinges to reduce the trailerable air draft to 13 feet 2 inches. Folds down? Yup, you simply unhook the custom-cut canvas that doubles as a cowling, drop a couple of inner supports, and let the thing settle flat. I could see the arrangement coming in handy while rollin’ down our nation’s highways for sure. Or hey, even while purring down our nation’s inland waterways.
And then the R-31 has additional features that are both nifty and, quite frankly, too numerous to cover here. Among them: “Gull wing” seats built into the cockpit inwales that cantilever outboard, thereby maintaining the cockpit’s roominess; a starboard-side pilothouse door that facilitates single-handed tie-ups; step access to the flying bridge instead of a ladder; and a hydraulically-actuated cockpit hatch that can be lifted by hand in fast-track emergencies.