The edges of the Chesapeake’s Eastern Bay blushed with November hues of orange, red, yellow and golden brown as we motored out from Kent Narrows around 11 a.m. Tucked away in the cabin of the Ranger Tugs R-27, I jostled the throttle. The boat jumped onto plane, blowing through the 20s and then into the low-30-mph range before settling in at wide-open throttle just under 40 mph. I pointed the bow south over a short chop toward St. Michaels, Maryland, where oysters and crab cakes awaited us. I might as well have been aboard an express cruiser, we were making such good time toward lunch.
You’d have to be in hibernation not to have noticed boatbuilders migrating to outboard power for all kinds of designs these days, from center consoles to Down East cruising yachts. The R-27, new for 2018, is one of two Ranger Tugs models with outboards. (The other is the R-23.) The new 27 with a single Yamaha F300 replaces the builder’s previous R-27, which had diesel inboard propulsion.
LOA: 31 feet, 4 inches • BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches • WEIGHT: 7,000 pounds (dry) • DRAFT: 2 feet, 9 inches (engine down) • HULL TYPE: modified-vee • POWER: single Yamaha F300 • SPEED: 36.8 knots top, 26.7 knots cruise • TANKAGE: 150 gallons fuel, 40 gallons water, 30 gallons waste • PRICE: $199,937 (as tested) • CONTACT: Ranger Tugs, Kent, Washington, (253) 839-5213. rangertugs.com
“This is an entirely new hull designed specifically for outboard power,” said Mark Schulstad, owner of the Ranger Tugs dealer Pocket Yacht Company in Grasonville, Maryland, as we cruised along in the 5- to 10-knot breeze. “I know what you’re thinking, but we didn’t simply use our old R-27 mold and slap an outboard on it.”
Schulstad turned the helm over to me, and we headed south toward open water. The boat planed in around eight seconds, and we hit 26 knots in just under 12 seconds. With the throttle mashed down and the outboard and trim tabs dialed in, we hit 33 knots — just shy of 38 mph. Yamaha and Ranger Tugs claim a top end just under 37 knots. Fuel level, installed options and a variety of other things could have affected our results, but 33 knots is very respectable for a boat in the R-27’s class.
She behaved nicely and was nimble at speed, although a handful of interior components rattled and vibrated underway. (Furniture bumpers from a local hardware store should stop that.) Although we did experience some moderate banging in the worst chop, the overall transition from wave to wave was comfortable and quiet. There was some perceptible water noise penetrating the hull, but it was by no means annoying. As we passed the lighthouse at Benoni Point, I pulled back the throttle and found the R-27’s sweet spot at around 23 to 24 knots, with a 16.5 gph fuel burn. That works out to about 1.6 mpg. Yamaha and Ranger Tugs market her with an efficient cruise at 26.7 knots, a 15.3 gph fuel burn and 2.01 mpg efficiency.
As we continued toward St. Michaels, I took a closer look inside and on deck. The R-27 has a forward V-berth with inserts that can be stowed to form dinette-style seating around a pedestal table. Abaft the berth and to starboard is an enclosed head with a shower, where translucent overhead glass lightens things up. A flat-screen television is on the port bulkhead, just forward of a hanging locker. An overhead hatch and two opening ports in the hull sides improve ventilation and lighting.
The R-27’s main saloon is trimmed in teak, and the seating is upholstered in leather-like vinyl. Above the helm and companion seating is an atrium-like overhead with glass that nicely lights the area. Four opening hatches overhead and more glass around the saloon’s edges further brighten the area. I especially liked the sliding windows next to the helm and companion seat. They not only improve ventilation, but also make talking with crewmembers outside much easier.
I also liked the seating’s Transfomer-like qualities. The starboard helm bench flips back on a hinge to add a second side to the starboard dinette. Additionally, the dinette’s table can lower to create a berth for two. Port-side companion seating flips forward to expand food-prep space in the galley, which is situated aft. Under the dinette is a cozy berth for two. Schulstad says folks primarily use that berth for gear stowage or as a cabin for pets.
The cockpit and main saloon can be joined as a single social space. A glass panel abaft the main saloon dinette opens with gas-assist struts and stows under the cockpit awning. The aft dinette seat flips backward to expand the cockpit seating. The rest of the main saloon is opened to the outside through a glass door abaft the galley that stows to the side. Two flip-out benches are in the cockpit, and a table insert fits between them. An electric grill is mounted on the transom with a sink and freshwater spigot. The grill can be lifted out and stowed; a live well for fishing is concealed beneath it.
After we tied up at the St. Michaels Crab & Steak House dock, I was able to step ashore and get a better look at the R-27’s cabin-top solar panel. A folding radar and antenna mast that stows for trailering is also up top, and there’s enough space for a kayak or two, or a couple of standup paddleboards. Strategically spaced stainless-steel rails make for great tie-off points.
From inside the restaurant, we watched as some folks lined up to gawk at the R-27. Before long, two gentlemen approached us inside. One was a previous Ranger Tugs owner, the other a current owner who keeps his boat in Maine. “What a great-looking boat,” one said. “How fast is she?” the other asked.
“The brand has a very loyal following,” Schulstad says. “I have previous and current owners approach me every time I’m out on one of these boats.”
The R-27 no doubt gets looks at the launch ramp, too. She’s trailerable, with an 8-foot, 6-inch beam and a 7,000-pound dry weight. “A trailer is available as an option,” Schulstad says. “The idea would be to keep the boat in the Mid-Atlantic or New England in the summer and then trailer her down to Florida or the Gulf Coast in winter.”
After enjoying my turn at the helm, I thought it might be more fun to cruise her down the Intracoastal Waterway. The trip could be done in 10 days or less with the outboard rig. While the R-27 isn’t going to break the sound barrier, the ease and efficiency of the Yamaha F300 at cruising and top speeds can expand an owner’s cruising range. And the interior accommodations and deck-plan utility are bonuses at anchor, no matter what’s on the menu for lunch.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue.