When I stepped onboard the new R-23 from Ranger Tugs earlier this year at the TrawlerFest in Stuart Florida, it was almost an afterthought. Afterall, I’d seen Ranger Tugs around for years without paying them much notice. My mooring neighbor has an R-25 that he often parks next to my boat in the Summer months. I even helped him navigate the tides to get her safely inside the harbor the first day he arrived.
A friend of mine at the boat ramp always scoffed when he saw the tug sitting next to my boat on the mooring. “They’re so funny looking,” he’d say. I’d chuckle out loud, but inside I quietly pondered. I’ve always been a fan of stout-looking, vintage designs. The more I saw her, the more I found myself slowly won over by her classic workboat-look combined with a subtly-refined, yacht-like style. They had real character, I thought.
Fast-forward back to Stuart. After a full day of checking out Kadey-Krogens, Grand Banks, Beneteaus and Nordhavns, the TrawlerFest had come to a close. The crowds were gone and the docks were virtually empty. I lingered around an old wooden schooner admiring her woodwork and sipping on a strong coffee before my ride back to Miami. A seaward wind had picked up ahead of an approaching front, and the sky was darkening as the sun inched towards the horizon. Wary of a long drive in a pelting thunderstorm, I headed towards land to find my car, but on the way out something stopped me in my tracks.
It was a lone R-23 sitting on a trailer next to an empty tent, seemingly forgotten. With not a soul in sight, a step-ladder beckoned me aboard with a welcome sign that read “fully equipped and ready to cruise from $114,937”. Not bad for a brand-new, 23-foot modern cabin cruiser. Intrigued enough to check out one last boat, I climbed the ladder to take a closer look.
Yamaha 200 HP Outboard on a Ranger Tugs R23. Photo by Ranger Tugs.
From the top of the ladder I stepped onto the aft swim platform – a great addition for a compact boat of this size. There I immediately noticed the 200-horsepower Yamaha outboard engine integrated well off the transom and flanked on either side by the platform giving plenty of space to walk between the motor and transom with ease.
I’d always thought of tug-style boats as having diesel inboard propulsions systems, so this was a bit of a surprise. Of course boat builders have been migrating to outboard power by the droves in recent years so this change makes sense, and it offers plenty of advantages. From increased storage space onboard, to easier maintenance and better overall efficiency, it’s definitely a smart choice from this builder. I later learned that the R-23’s hull was specifically designed by Ranger Tugs for outboard power.
Ranger Tugs R23 on a plane. Photo by Ranger Tugs.
Another surprise for me was the performance specs. I thought back to my friend from up North – the one who had scoffed my neighbor’s boat. “They only do like 8 knots,” I remember him saying. I peered at the laminated spec sheet, expecting that statistic to be confirmed. My eyes bulged when I read “top speed: 32 knots”. Rigged with the trusty Yamaha 200, the R-23 gets on plane quickly and has smooth acceleration, plus she will cruise at a fuel-efficient 23 knots (26 MPH). This tiny trawler packs a punch!
Finally I understood the beauty of this awesome little boat: she is the Volvo of trailerable boats – sporty yet safe, tough but accommodating. Reliable and sturdy but quick on her feet and nimble in small spaces, she’s built like a linebacker but dressed in a suit.
Ranger Tugs R23 aft deck and rear cabin. Photo by Ranger Tugs.
Perhaps the most notable characteristic about the aft deck to me is the opening glass bulkhead that expands the cabin to the rear of the vessel with an interior seat that flips around with ease to provide an aft-facing lounge. This effectively feels like you’ve doubled the size of the deck while retaining space inside the cabin. Someone can sit in that rear-facing seat and feel like they’re outside on deck, despite technically being inside, under the roof. This feature really illustrates the ingenuity present in Ranger Tugs.
Ranger Tugs R23 cabin interior. Photo by Ranger Tugs.
Inside The Cabin
It’s no wonder many have dubbed this clever little boat the “Swiss Army Knife of boats”. Clearly, every square inch has been painstakingly thought out and maximized to the utmost degree. Nearly every feature has dual functionality, sometimes more.
The entire cabin has a light and airy feel with four separate opening skylight roof hatches, sliding side windows, opening portlights and a large curved windshield with great wrap-around visibility. The seating layout is nearly perfect with a table that converts to a mid-berth and flippable co-pilot chair beside the captain’s chair (there’s even a large storage space below the mid-berth, or perhaps a somewhat claustrophobic third berth for the kids when needed). A compact galley is seamlessly incorporated into the starboard side of the cabin with refrigerator, stovetop, sink and microwave – making her an excellent home for weekend trips or extended cruising.
Despite the relatively easy-to-swallow price tag, Ranger Tugs did not skimp on style. With wood grain accents and premium upholstery throughout, she has a modern feel with a cozy vibe. Perhaps that’s why she’s earned herself another nickname: “pocket yacht”. (Incidentally, The Pocket Yacht Company is the number one dealer for Ranger Tugs and Cutwater Boats in the country).
Ranger Tugs R23 helm controls. Photo by Ranger Tugs.
At The Helm
At the controls, the curved windshield and visor provide great visibility on the water. Single-lever, electronic shift and throttle control, trim tabs, full engine instrumentation and a wood grain steering wheel make for a comfortable, practical control station. She also has the patented Laminar Flow Interrupters to increase turning performance. With a fuel-flow data display you can stay on top of your burn rate and efficiency and there’s a full navigation package with a 10-inch, multi-touch widescreen Garmin 7610 GPS plotter and FF.
Ranger Tugs R23. Photo by Ranger Tugs.
Sleeping Berth and Head
The forward cabin on the R-23 has a stylish teak table that can be lowered down to convert the v-berth into a sleeping area for two, with a filler-cushion. For a 23-foot boat, you probably wouldn’t expect an enclosed head or stand-up shower – but you’d be wrong. Ranger Tugs have found an ingenious way to manage squeezing everything on this little cabin cruiser. Behind a privacy door, there’s a marine toilet with a holding tank, as well as a shower, sink and mirror. To use the shower, you pull a sturdy vinyl curtain around the center of the sleeping berth and close the door to the cabin above (this does mean no one can be in the forward cabin while you are showering, but hey, it’s a 23-foot boat, remember?). The shower empties through a drain in the floor.
With trending hashtags like #tinyhome and #vanlife on Instagram, and the increasing popularity of the trailerable-trawler “boater-homing” lifestyle, Ranger Tugs R-23 seems like the right boat at the right time – and, for not a lot of money (relatively).
Ranger Tugs R23. Photo by Ranger Tugs.
Length rigged LOA (motor down) 28ʼ 5″ 8.6 m
Length rigged LOA (motor up) 29′ 8″ 9.0 m
Beam 8′ 6″ 2.6 m
Draft (motor down) 30” .76 m
Draft (motor up) 19” .48 m
Weight, dry 5,000 lbs 2,268 kg
Bridge clearance (mast down) 8ʼ 6” 2.6 m
Fuel capacity 80 U.S. Gal 302.8 L
Water capacity 22 U.S. Gal 83.3 L
Holding tank capacity 11 U.S. Gal 41.6 L
View Ranger Tugs R23 for sale on Boat Trader.
Visit Ranger Tugs for more information.