Safety, comfort and easy handling distinguish this trailerable cruiser.
Ranger Tugs’ new R-23 is a winner. If one wants a small, very capable, high-speed, trailerable cruiser, Ranger’s newest offering will fit the bill. At least 50 have been sold in the first five months since its introduction at the 2016 Vancouver International Boat Show in January. Ranger has set aside a complete production facility just to build this one model. According to the builder, 90 percent of purchasers are young parents with children.
A Bit of History
In 1998, John Livingston, the son of legendary Pacific Northwest boat designer David Livingston, acquired Fluid Motion LLC, a company that had been building the Ranger 21 since 1958. Since that acquisition, Livingston has added seven new Ranger models to the line and has developed the Cutwater line.
Ranger and Cutwater are now among the best selling marques in North America. Their customer service is top rated by many boaters and their staff responds quickly, and knowledgeably, to questions.
Design and Construction
The R-23 is a new design, not a modification of another vessel in the line. It does have a comfortable and familiar feeling to it, but that’s because of the design brilliance of Livingston, who uses proven features that work on other Ranger and Cutwater models and incorporates them into the new boat.
The hull design is different. It starts with a deep-V (22 degrees) at the bow, flattens to an 11 degree deadrise about a third of the way aft and sharpens to 24 degrees at the transom. The hull shape also features reverse chines and planing strakes, which add nicely to hull stability both underway and at rest.
Another proprietary hull design feature is unique to this hull. Ranger calls them Laminar Flow Interrupters. They are small oval “dimples” laminated into the hull that have the effect of introducing a layer of air between the hull bottom and the water, which reduces the drag on the hull in smooth water and in tight turns.
The R-23 hull is hand-laid solid fiberglass below the waterline and cored glass in all other areas. In areas that require the traditional backing plates for cleats and other fittings, Ranger uses Coosa Board, high-density polyurethane panels with glass fibers laminated in. A pan stringer system is bonded solidly to the hull interior.
Getting on board is safe and easy — a step from the dock to a swim step that is at about the same height above the water as the dock, and then through a transom gate into the very spacious cockpit. Optional staple-type safety rails on the swim step provide good handholds for boarding and are a convenient place to tie up a dinghy. Even with five people on board, the cockpit had plenty of room. It helps that the outboard is mounted on a bracket under the swim step, to keep the cockpit clear, which makes the R-23 a great fishing platform.
Access to the interior is through a glass bulkhead door. Two aft windows, one fixed and one that swings up, allow plenty of natural light into the deckhouse. There is great visibility directly from the helm seat into the cockpit. Opening overhead hatches and sliding side windows provide good ventilation. Along the port side is a raised dinette that seats four and can be converted to a berth. Under the dinette is a good storage space that could be used as a berth for smaller kids.
Along the starboard side is a compact but complete galley, featuring a single-burner cooktop, a sink, a refrigerator/freezer and a good amount of storage space. Mounted across from the galley, under the forward dinette seat, is a microwave. Forward of the galley is the helm station. Our test boat was equipped with a single-lever fly-by-wire engine control and a Yamaha Command Link Plus video display that provides all engine information at a glance. The helm dash had plenty of room for all standard video display screens.
Accommodations forward are comfortable, featuring twin berths and a dropdown table that combines with the cushion insert to create a standard double V-berth. A pair of overhead hatches and hull windows make the space bright and cheery and allow for good ventilation. A small sink, complete with a pullout showerhead, and a mirror are to port, while a manual head is to starboard. A clever combination of companionway door and curtains allows for an inside shower.
The interior fit and finish through this small cruiser is good, and the materials selected — teak paneling and cabinetry, ebony vinyl flooring, vinyl Sunbrella upholstery and white gelcoat — make the interior very easy to keep clean.
Our test boat was equipped with the standard 200 hp Yamaha outboard. The award-winning, four-cycle, inline, four-cylinder, 2.8L engine popped the R-23 quickly onto plane and we soon spooled up to wide-open throttle of 5500 rpm, which gave us a top speed of 31.3 knots. At that speed, we were getting 1.6 nautical miles per gallon. At a comfortable cruise of about 23 knots (4400 revs), we were getting 2.4 mpg — good mileage for this type of boat. Ranger offers a 170 hp Volvo D3 diesel sterndrive, which is a $10,000 option. We had five people on board, so we were well loaded down, yet both speed and fuel mileage were excellent given the boat’s load. The outboard-powered Ranger has plenty of space below the cockpit for a small generator.
The R-23 handled very well during our entire test. It responded quickly and immediately to all helm inputs, and the Laminar Flow Interrupters really showed their value during tight turns at speed. Boats with “normal” absolutely smooth bottom construction tend to “bog down” in tight turns at speed. With the drag reduced by the introduction of air created by the Interrupters, the bog-down effect was greatly reduced.
The R-23 is a solidly put together, brilliantly designed small cruiser from a very experienced builder. Many of the new hull design features will be adopted by other manufacturers in due course. The pricing of this boat reminds me of another Pacific Northwest icon that kick-started new boat sales in 1980. At that time, fuel prices were rising rapidly and new boat sales were almost non-existent. Boaters were nervous, uncertain about the economy and, therefore, afraid to spend money.
Then Nordic Tugs introduced its 26-footer at the Seattle Boat Show and sold one every three hours the show was open. The price was $29,995 at the time. That purchase price in 1980 equals about $92,497 in today’s dollars. The R-23’s suggested retail price of $94,937 puts it in incredibly good company; plus, the new Ranger has more useable space and is faster and far more comfortable than the original 26.
The Ranger R-23 is a must-see vessel for buyers who want to get on the water in a safe, comfortable boat that handles well, is fast and easy to keep clean, and can be had at a price that won’t break the bank.