Ranger Tugs R-23

Big trawler comfort blends with runabout performance in an attractive, easily-trailerable package.

by Craig Ritchie
With generous interior space, a comfortable seaworthy ride and unmatched overall livability, it’s no surprise that trawlers have long been the favorite of cruising boaters.


  • LOA: 22'8"
  • Beam: 8'6"
  • Draft: 30"/19"
  • Weight: 5,000 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 75 gals
  • Water Capacity: 22 gals.
  • Power: 200-hp Yamaha outboard
  • Price: Contact dealer


On the other hand, trailer boats appeal to boaters with limited amounts of leisure time, enabling them to explore new waters even for just a few days at a time.

Then there’s the remarkable R-23 from Ranger Tugs, which delivers the best of both worlds. Thanks to a sharp design sense and a healthy dose of brilliant engineering, the R-23 offers trawler capabilities in an easily-trailerable package. Far more than an occasional overnighter, this boat also works well for extended cruising, with the ability to travel anywhere on the Great Lakes.

Style aboard

The R-23 follows the classic styling of a traditional trawler with its high freeboard, large windows and elegantly curved windshield with standard overhead sun visor. It also boasts the trawler’s traditional solid build, which is no surprise for a boat that’s crafted largely by hand for the open waters of the Pacific Northwest. Only the presence of an outboard engine — mounted on a neat bracket that’s mostly concealed beneath the generously-proportioned rear swim platform — gives away the fact that this is a completely modern design for today’s boater.

With an overall length of just 22 feet, 8 inches, (excluding the engine) and a trailer-friendly 8-foot, 6-inch beam, the 5,000-pound R-23 is gifted with a magical ability to be so much bigger inside than out. That becomes apparent from the moment you step aboard.

The R-23 offers convenient dock-level entry via the spacious rear swim platform, which features a waist-high stainless steel railing for extra security. The platform’s attractive non-skid surface, along with its collapsible boarding ladder, speaks to this boat’s fun side, encouraging one to start their day in true cruising style with a refreshing morning swim.

A walk-through transom door located at the starboard end of the swim platform provides easy access into the large, open cockpit. This space is clearly built for enjoying the outdoors, with plenty of space for offshore fishing — as evidenced by the standard rod holders and gunnel space that’s ideal for installing optional downrigger pads and outlets. The generous freeboard, padded cockpit coaming and stainless steel grabrails offer a strong sense of security, giving the R-23 the semblance of a much larger boat.

Across the transom lies the first of the R-23’s many special charms in the form of a fold-down, forward-facing bench seat. In addition to its ability to retract into the transom when not in use, it’s a far more comfortable perch than many others I’ve experienced. The bench’s plush seat cushion is both soft and supportive, and is finished with beautiful upholstery work. The tight, straight stitching exemplifies the level of detail found throughout the boat.

The large, rear-facing window situated on the port side of the salon opens outward completely, allowing one to reposition the adjustable seatback on the salon dinette to face aft and sit in the window opening. Simultaneously extending the versatility of the cockpit while filling the salon with fresh air, this innovative arrangement really makes the most of the R-23’s compact footprint, again providing the boat with capabilities that seem out of keeping for a vessel its size.

Bigger inside than out

An oversized entry door along the centerline leads into the salon, which boasts a refreshingly bright and airy feel. Large, sliding side windows, elegant brass portholes and four opening roof hatches further contribute to the salon’s spacious ambiance. Apart from providing a welcoming living space, the design offers extraordinary visibility in every direction, whether you’re at anchor in a quiet cove or navigating through a busy channel.

Starboard, a small but surprisingly well- equipped, teak-finished galley provides a Nova Kool refrigerator/freezer, a cooktop, a microwave, a stainless steel sink with a cutting board insert and a residential-style faucet. The large windows make food preparation here a joy, allowing the chef to work comfortably without missing out on any of the views or conversation. It’s a small space, but the intelligent layout makes it remarkably efficient. Add a rail-mount barbecue to the cockpit space and there aren’t many meals that one couldn’t prepare here.

To port, the spacious dinette seats four in comfort. Adjustable seatbacks provide a range of forward- and aft-facing seating when not being used as a dinette, which greatly enhances the R-23’s overall utility. It also represents an incredible find in a 23-foot trailerable boat, where meals normally are sandwiches pulled out of a cooler.

The helm station is positioned to starboard, just ahead of the galley. A flush-mounted Garmin GPSMap 7610XSV to center — flanked on the right by a Yamaha digital speedometer/fuel gauge stacked with a Yamaha digital tachometer beneath — dominate the soft, upholstered dash panel in our review boat. The toggle control for a Lewmar bowthruster mounted close by is a welcome addition and greatly facilitates slow speed maneuvering while docking or in windy conditions. There’s also an illuminated compass, and a HDX radar and autopilot are available as popular upgrades. To center, a distinctive wooden steering wheel with stainless steel spokes provides sure control and an elegant touch.

Looking up, multiple windows in the salon’s ceiling enhance the boat’s spacious feel and allow for natural light. Opening hatches provide outstanding ventilation while keeping inclement weather outside where it belongs.

Impressive accommodations

Step below and into the forward cabin on the R-23, which features a V-berth with a removable tabletop, a small storage cabinet and a stainless steel sink. Given the comfort of the main salon dinette, most cruisers will simply remove the tabletop here and install a filler cushion to convert this space into a large bed that sleeps two. Opening overhead hatches and functional portholes provide plenty of refreshing ventilation on warm summer nights.

The neatly designed head is located to starboard, complete with a marine toilet, shower, sink, mirror and functional porthole. The head is far more spacious than one would expect in a trailerable trawler that’s not much larger than a typical bass boat.

The R-23 reveals its bigger-inside-than-out quality yet again when you realize there’s also a mid-berth that’s perfect for the kids. Accessed through the dinette seat, it’s an admittedly tight squeeze for adults; empty nesters in the crowd will simply welcome it as magnificent storage space for bulky gear.

But the kids in your crew will absolutely fight for the chance to claim this private little cabin as their own, making the R-23 a legitimate candidate for family cruising. The salon dinette can further convert to a third sleeper in a pinch, bringing total overnight capacity to six. That’s pretty impressive for a 23-foot boat.

The number 23

For all of its innovative engineering, the R-23 is at heart a cruising boat, and it certainly does cruise along with its standard 200-hp Yamaha outboard. Weighing just 487 pounds, the 2.8L Yamaha F200 four-stroke delivers mountains of torque for an astounding power-to-weight ratio, giving the R-23 a level of performance that is definitely a step above trawler standard. The ability to tilt the outboard up and out of the water further facilitates maintenance and helps keep it clean of algae, zebra mussels and other aquatic growths.

While we often think of trawlers as displacement boats, the R-23 is designed with a high performance planning hull. The Yamaha’s solid bottom-end grunt pushes the hull up on plane easily and delivers a top-end speed in the range of 35 mph. Cut the throttle back to around 20 mph and cruise while sipping fuel for tremendous operating economy.

While sea trialing the R-23 on a beautiful Washington lake a few miles from Seattle, Ranger Tugs’ amiable president, John Livingston, chuckles when I ask him about the boat’s fuel consumption.

“Just remember the number 23,” he says. “At 23 mph, the R-23 with that Yamaha 200 will give you 3 mpg. Pin it and you can go 35 mph and get where you’re going in a hurry. Or pull it back to 23 and you have a range of well over 200 miles. The boat is not just fast, it’s scary efficient.”

It’s also just plain fun. Rocking back and forth on the wheel at John’s insistence entices the R-23 into a rhythmic series of graceful slalom turns, the hull simply leaning in and going where it’s pointed with every steering input. It doesn’t take a lot of trim adjustment to find that sweet spot where it just settles in on top and glides along effortlessly. Even a series of hole shots and tight turns with the trim intentionally set too high or low fail to entice this boat to misbehave. The ride can best be described as confident and ready, in the manner of a luxury SUV.

Slow speed maneuverability is also impressive, thanks in no small part to the R-23’s efficient hull design. For those really tight spots, a helping hand from the bowthruster gets the job done. It’s the kind of boat that quickly forges confidence at the helm, whether underway on open water or navigating through constricted spaces.

Large enough to explore the Great Lakes in comfort yet trim enough to be easily towed, the Ranger Tugs R-23 truly offers boaters the best of both worlds in an attractive, elegant package that’s somehow bigger inside than out.



South Shore JUN17
South Shore JUN17