by Jeni Bone
Peter McCook has been at the helm of Ranger Tugs since March this year, taking over from John Smale, who discovered the little vessels while on holidays in Hawaii in 2008.
Peter McCook: The Seattle made Ranger Tugs are all up to Australian standard.
Since then, Smale imported them from Seattle direct, ensuring the boat was up to Australian standard, selling around 35 boats all around Australia, from Noosa to Fremantle and all the lakes in between.
With a slice of exhibition space at Sydney International Boat Show, Peter always has a crowd gathered around the three boats on display.
'They are unique,' says Peter. 'The rest of the boating market is so competitive, it's all about price. We have no competition, it's a niche product. We have 53 years of boat building history behind us and a lot of love goes in to them. David Livingstone is one of the most accomplished boat builders in the US.'
In the US, Ranger Tugs ranked eighth in market share in 2009 for fiberglass inboard boats 24 feet and larger and it ranked fifth in the same category in 2010. There are more than 1,000 Ranger Tugs owners in North America and its line of shallow-draft, fuel-efficient boats is well-positioned to grow internationally.
At the Sydney boat show, visitor feedback has been unanimous. 'We've had a fantastic response. We're very pleased. Without boasting, three groups of people have told us that ours are the best boats at the show. They love the character and the fact that they're compact. They take us back to the roots of boating, of enjoying the journey, not going flat out and burning so much fuel. That is a big thing with our buyers. Fuel is really an issue.'
While Peter is confident of closing some deals, he says 'These are the sorts of boats that appeal to a conservative market, people who take their time making a decision, come back three or four times and want a water trial.'
Based at Blacktown, Ranger Tugs conducts its trials at the The Spit or Parramatta River.
The design, price and attention to detail strike a chord with the semi-retired and retirees. As Peter explains: 'A lot are sailors who are finding it hard to keep up their sailing and want a coastal cruiser they can afford that is easier to handle.
Peter forecasts he will sell two to three during the boat show and longer term, a total of five as a result of leads generated at the show.
The range includes the R-21 at $95,000, the R-25 which is $199,000 and R-27 is $239,00 and R-29 is $335,000.
'The 29 is an interesting boat,' explains Peter. 'It has the same cabin proportions as a 40-footer, so you do get value for your money. The R-21 is a displacement hull, but the bigger boats are all planing hulls up to 22-25 knots.
'Even the little ones go offshore. Because their roots are in Seattle, they are used to heavy weather and will eat up a 2-3m swell. We call them coastal cruisers or passage makers. You could go around Australia in the 29 without any problems.'
The second purpose of the boat show for Ranger Tugs is to attract dealers in every state. 'We have an exclusive dealer in WA, Craig and Michelle McAllister, based in Fremantle and we're looking for others now, and we are looking to expand into New Zealand this year as well, possibly exhibiting at the Auckland Boat Show in September.'
The high Aussie dollar is helping business, making imports even more appealing, according to Peter who in addition, has prepared a package for each of 'Boat Show Specials'.
'We are offering $5000 worth of free options on the R-21, $10,000 on the R-25, $15,000 on the R-27 and $20,000 on the R-29 during the Sydney Boat Show.'
More at www.rangertugs.com.au