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LakeMJim 06-11-2021 10:11 PM

Newbie on my way to Vancouver Island
Hi, I am retired and recently sold everything I own (the third time in my life doing so, what a great feeling!) and plan to move to somewhere around the Gulf Islands. My flight is booked and I'll arrive in a couple of weeks.

I am completely flexible about location and what kind of boat I will end up buying. I am looking for advice. I have lived on inland lake islands for many years, and so I am familiar with smaller boats, bowriders and such, but am as green as it gets when it comes to trawlers and any kind of coastal boating.

Two of my family members are extremely experienced sailors (like decades of experience on sailboats up to the largest navy vessels). But they must be getting tired of my questions.

They told me about Ranger tugs, I went to see one, loved it, and so am considering one, or something like it.

Normally I'd be in a huge rush and jump right in, as I tend to do, but with the scarcity of boats in general and my inexperience, I'm thinking maybe a bit of research and some test cruises near Vancouver would be a better way to go.

Anyway, that's me, I'll be asking a million annoying questions. Sorry. (Canadian eh)

Comodave 06-11-2021 10:12 PM

Welcome aboard. Good luck with your search.

JLT 06-11-2021 10:16 PM

Check out Thetis or Galiano islands. Need more detials? Ask!

LakeMJim 06-11-2021 10:21 PM


Years ago I spent a week on a liveaboard dive boat and recall Galiano. I'm looking forward to exploring it all more. I'm also looking for a water access building lot or fixer upper somewhere around there.

Probably not a great time to be buying, so I am more likely to rent. Maybe Nanaimo?

Unless someone convinces me I need a much bigger boat to live on and forget about being land based at all....

Peter B 06-11-2021 10:32 PM


Originally Posted by LakeMJim (Post 1011643)
.....Unless someone convinces me I need a much bigger boat to live on and forget about being land based at all....

Yes, there is that, and welcome to TF. One advantage in your situation is that if you buy big enough to live-aboard, you're unlikely (unable actually), to accumulate too much 'stuff', the getting rid of which to move from a house, is a real pain, as you will be well aware.

Also a boat big enough to live-aboard is often easier to drive solo than a smaller one - especially if, like the Ranger Tug, it is on a trailer. Usually they will have thrusters - or they can be retro-fitted, and launching and retrieving a boat single-handed is nigh on impossible to do safely or without dramas, compared to starting the engine, and just dropping or retrieving lines, and just heading off from a berth. Ask me how I know... :D

LakeMJim 06-11-2021 11:04 PM

One reason that I am moving to Vancouver Island is that I have family and friends there, so I could probably have some 'crew' to help me out, especially if I was doing any serious trip.

My lifestyle tends to be sell everything, feel wonderful and liberated, almost exhilarated, travel for a few tears, then find a water access lot to build on, which requires a small barge, a runabout, a tractor, an Argo, a snowmobile, a truck and 8 million tools.

So I like the idea of being forced to not accumulate all those toys for the 4th time.

Although I really do enjoy building in remote areas for some strange reason.

Conrad 06-11-2021 11:17 PM

My goodness, so much to suggest. I'm a liveaboard on a 42 Nordic Tug based in Campbell River, further up the island. I love my life. For a liveaboard I'd suggest something in the 40' minimum if you are single. 200' + if you have a partner...
Kidding on the partner front of course.
For the price of a new Ranger tug there are many used options out there that will give you more living space and perhaps better sea capabilities if you're out in the straits much.
I find the gulf islands to be quite crowded in the summer, although pretty amazing. Because of that, I'm berthed in Campbell River which gives me quick access to Desolation Sound, and parts north, all of which are much less crowded. And of course you can always head south for exploring the gulf islands if you choose.
Good luck on your quest; you have some amazing options in front of you.

LakeMJim 06-12-2021 12:00 AM

Thanks Conrad, I am really looking for a slightly used tug, of whichever brand is available.

I was hoping for something like a 2015, lowish hours. But I want to be open minded, and if I came across a much older but really well maintained boat, I'd consider it.

My dilemma is, being inexperienced, and usually alone, I might struggle with a larger boat. Or maybe not. I can dock a boat and my am told with bow thrusters even a larger boat is not too difficult.

I once tied up a 20 foot barge to cleats that were 2 feet underwater in rough and near freezing conditions during the floods of 2019 on my lake in Ontario. How much more difficult can docking be?

More remote areas appeal to me, and I would love to explore further North. Just don't think I am ready for it, unless of course I am based up there.

I think it's safe to say I would almost certainly spend more time at the dock than cruising for the first year, or two.

Russell Clifton 06-12-2021 04:21 AM

Look into doing a charter to see if a ranger tug is really something you would like to live on.

LakeMJim 06-12-2021 08:17 AM

I will definitely look into a charter.

Just offhand I would say I am pretty sure I couldn't afford a Ranger big enough that I would like to live on. Maybe for a month or two on a long cruise, but not for a year or two.

If I decided to try a liveaboard I think I'd be looking at an older, much bigger trawler.

But these are the decisions I am struggling with right now.

I can 'rough it'. I have spent the last few years living alone on an island in a construction site.

But probably due to that experience, I think I'd like someplace to live that's got all the amenities.

rsn48 06-21-2021 06:56 PM

The better boating is further north than the southern gulf Islands. Desolation Sound and the Broughtons offer more, particularly the Broughtons which are never over flowing like Desolation and the southern Gulf Islands can be.

If you are open, consider living on Texada Island which allows you to keep a boat at the Texada Boat Club (kind of a boat club for those who only want to wear jeans). You have to be a resident of Texada to join. The location of the boat club gives you access to all kinds of wonderful boating. Most of the population is on the northern section of the island.

sledge 06-21-2021 08:19 PM

I'm gonna chime in and agree with Conrad... i mean Rangers are great for certain boaters that need a very compact boat for specific reasons... but if you might live aboard long term; 35 to 40-ft range might be a lot more comfortable.
Consider adding to your looking list Nordic and American tugs in the 34 ft range. Beyond LOA, be sure to compare beam at the same time. an extra foot of beam can make a huge difference in interior space.
As for the Gulf islands, we did spend a season in the area. I know some of the docks are pretty tired, but we really enjoyed the Ganges area of Salt Spring Island. Brentwood Bay is also a neat place with a "backdoor" to Butchart Gardens.
Happy hunting!

LakeMJim 06-21-2021 09:57 PM

rsn48: I am somewhat familiar with both the San Juan and Gulf islands and I like what I have seen of them.

Part of my motivation for getting a boat that can go a lot further than the average runabout is that I want to explore the entire inside passage, with a primary goal of finding a water access property where I would like to live year round. In general I'd like a little more remote. But I'm not crazy about off grid.

Looking and reading online is fine, but nothing beats seeing the place in person, and getting to know the entire area.

Being retired, I have plenty of time to explore and I plan to extend the season as long as is possible. I was boating in January in Ontario this year, pushing through some broken up ice.

Not having to deal with ice from January to the end of April sounds like a dream to me. And a boat with a closed cabin and a heater? Luxury.

I'm hoping I can avoid most of the crowds by being away from the popular areas in high season. Desolation Sound and the Broughtons sound ideal.

Since I am trying to find a warmer climate, not a colder one, I imagine I will want to live somewhere well South of Alaska. If that means I have to put up with more traffic, so be it, it can't possibly be busier than the lake I just left (I hope).

As for a bigger boat, of course I'd be more comfortable in a 34, 37 or 42 foot boat. But I can't afford one. And I don't want to get an older one that requires maintenance or is beyond the engine warranty. I want to be on the water, not sitting in my condo waiting for the boat to get out of the shop.

As I said, I am well aware the R27 is not the perfect boat, but it suits me. I am still considering one other used boat that is somewhat bigger, but I am very reluctant to pursue it due to its significantly higher cost and likely maintenance that I am not capable of doing myself.

Spinner 06-21-2021 10:16 PM

Welcome to the best cruising grounds around!! I have had two Ranger Tugs, a 29 and a 31. While I do know people who have lived aboard both, I think they would be pretty tight. Either will handle the waters in BC.

My current boat is a 2003 Nordic Tug 42. I am staying onboard while my house is in construction. It’s really comfortable and plenty spacious for one+cat!!

firehoser75 06-22-2021 12:10 PM

Welcome to the Vancouver Island area. With the right boat (meaning mostly the needed equipment), you can boat all year round here if you desire to do so.
I agree with all of the others who say the best cruising is north of Nanaimo, although the Gulf Islands in the off season are great as well.
Speaking from personal preferences and experience, if doing extended cruising (meaning greater distances and/or longer seasons) I would want a larger boat than a Ranger 27. There are many well built boats like Nordic Tug 32/34 or American Tug 34 that would make great boats for single handing (especially if equipped with both bow and stern thrusters) as easy as possible. They would be reliable and comfortable in most weather conditions around here. Obviously for comfort, a person would "pick their travel days" when crossing the Salish Sea and some other areas. Those boats could also be used as "live aboards" for a "minimalist". :)
In these parts, live aboard moorage can be hard to find. Most marinas either don't allow it or set strict limits and in those cases vacancies are rare.
As an aside, if you are not willing or able to do any of the necessary boat maintenance yourself, it will quickly become very expensive. Labour rates are over $100 per hour. Plus, when you are on extended cruises, it is best to have some idea on how to deal with "smaller" repair and troubleshooting issues, as at times help can be hard to find.
Good luck on your dreams.

LakeMJim 06-22-2021 01:20 PM

Thanks Tom.

The liveaboard idea was a fleeting thought that I quickly abandoned. All the advice and ideas here have helped me narrow things down.

I would hope that a brand new R27 with a Yamaha outboard that has a 5 year warranty would not be a problem maintenance wise. I can certainly do oil changes and things like that, although I would probably let the pros do even that as those costs are not prohibitive.

I'm expecting my major issues will be with electrical/electronics, and I just hope the major items are reliable.

I could afford a 31 or 34 foot diesel Tug that is 5 to 10 years old, but I can't imagine they will be less maintenance than a brand new outboard.

If I get into nasty weather I believe the advantage of the R27 is a speed that would get me out of the way before it hits, hopefully. I have all the time in the world and I would happily wait for days to get better weather.

I'm really interested to learn more about the weather year 'round. My first year I will be quite cautious of course. As long as there is not 3 feet of ice, it'll be an improvement over what I am leaving.

firehoser75 06-22-2021 04:56 PM

No problem Jim, and if that is the way you see as best for you, then go for it!!
However, some additional thoughts for your consideration.
I am by no means a Ranger Tug "basher". They have a large and very supportive following and you see a fair number of them out on the water. To me, that is a good sign.
However, in my opinion, the cabin space on the R27 is very limited for year round use. The boat is at least "half cockpit" and probably better suited to sunnier warmer weather than winter or even shoulder season long distance cruising. Yes, you can canvas it in but that is still not the same as interior space. Winter weather in these parts is generally considered to be mild. We rarely get overnight freezing temps (regularly close but not freezing) and very rarely get daytime freezing temps (however, some winters are worse than others). What we do get is lots and lots and lots of rain, making for a form of "bone chilling" dampness and cold. Also we get many more days with higher winds. Winter boating requires a good source of heat, like a diesel furnace, to be comfortable. Anchoring overnight without this type (non-electric) of heat source would not be very comfortable on many (most) winter days. The boats I mentioned earlier offer larger spaces indoors, good ventilation opportunities for summer, and usually all have good heating systems installed as standard. They also have adequate outdoor space (cockpit and "sun deck") for sunny weather.

Even new boats require maintenance with costs born by the owner. Warranties cover defects and failures. By the 5-10 year mark those should have been discovered and dealt with. Generally fuel costs are higher for outboard motors than for diesels and operating at slower cruising speed (trawlers). Most Ranger "Tugnuts" plane all the time and cruise at 15 or so knots. The other larger Tugs like NT or AT cruise mostly at 7 knots but when asked can run at 15 knots. At 7 knots they burn about 2 gallons per hour. I am reasonably sure that an R27 (with outboard) cruising at 14 knots burns more than 4 gallons per hour??? From figures I can find, it appears that the Ranger 27 averages about 1.5 mpg while an NT 32 will get about 3.5 mpg or a cost increase of $12 per mile for fuel for the Ranger (estimates only). Those costs can add up, however, on average you would spend less time "getting there".

Basic maintenance on a diesel is easy to learn and not terribly time consuming. If you end up in the Nanaimo area and are looking for recommendations for a marine electrician and a good, honest mechanic who will also instruct, let me know by PM and I will send you the info.
Good luck in your decisions and in your boat hunt. :)

Spinner 06-22-2021 05:15 PM

Good points, Tom! While I am not suggesting a Ranger Tug as a year-round live aboard boat, the ones that are ordered locally almost always have Webasto diesel furnaces installed. I even had a heat outlet added to my (fully enclosed) cockpit!

As regards speed, yes, I see a lot of Ranger Tugs zooming around. I think many are the new designs with outboards, and a hull optimized for planing. The original designs, and still the R-29 and R-31, were semi displacement, not planing hulls. I and a lot of other owners operated them at tug speed (below hull speed) to optimize fuel economy :-)

For living aboard, I think your suggestions for Nordic or American Tugs are just right!

firehoser75 06-22-2021 07:20 PM

Good points also Sue, and you know much more than I do when it comes to Ranger Tugs!! Good to know about the usual install of diesel furnaces in this area. Makes sense.
However, my comments stand for our OP as he is talking about potentially buying a brand new R27 with outboard motor (300 hp seems standard from what I can see online).
For extended cruising (meaning all year round and/or longer trips or time aboard) I feel that an R27 lacks interior room due to it's narrow beam and large cockpit. Additionally the Ranger's with outboards rarely operate at hull speed and therefore fuel costs will be approx. $1200 more (for only a 100 hour season) per year compared to the slower diesel tugs (on average) we have been discussing. Granted 100 hours at higher speed gets you further. The R27 also has a fairly small water tank (only 40 gallons, and we found 80 gallons hard on our first boat) and it's range is limited due to higher fuel consumption and a relatively small fuel tank.
My intent is to have the OP consider all aspects before making his decision and maybe standing a better chance of being totally happy with his choice, whatever that turns out to be.

I am glad to hear you have made it up here (to Canada) and hope to get to meet you in person one day.
I think I confused myself with fuel costs and mixed mpg and hours. It would theoretically cost $1200 more for a 100 mile trip. If my logic is off, maybe someone could correct me?? Thks.

Jeff F 06-22-2021 10:01 PM

I've been following your threads with interest and a bit of envy. I'd love to spend more time around Vancouver Island. I'd go the big old liveaboard route, but given your position and preferences I think the Ranger 27 outboard is a great choice.

Let us know how things go!

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