Tale Of Two Tugs, From The Otherside
Courtesy of Passagemaker Magazine
East of Whidbey Island, Washington, the Swinomish Slough (pronounced “sloo”) connects inner Puget Sound to Anacortes, one of the final mainland stops if you’re heading to the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands. To locals, it’s referred to simply as “The Slough” since it’s the only useful one around. It’s purpose in my mind: offering protected passage to these northern destinations when weather and current can stir up unpleasant conditions across the 18-mile-wide Strait of Juan de Fuca, the slough’s open-water alternative.
In order to make it passable, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged and diked the slough in 1937. Its southwestern entrance requires some careful navigating to ensure your bottom stays clean, but luckily the Corps also installed a handy cheat for captains: A Lineup of large sight markers. In order to keep the deepest water on your centerline, simply keep those markers aligned until the channel bends them out of sight. At the northern end of the five-mile-long trench, passage is decidedly easier, with the exit marked by a rusty swing bridge that resembles an always-open electrical circuit.
Mid-way through, boaters pass the oft-visited town of La Conner, a destination known as much for its nearby Tulip Festival as for its antique shopping and tasty brew-pub. La Conner has a first-class box seat to the ebb and flow of marine traffic, and its houses, lined up one after another, enjoy the constant stream of fishing boats, sailboats, and cruisers chugging by.
La Conner is where we find ourselves on day two of our trip: my dad—serving as fender and line jockey, navigator (or so he believes), chief sandwich maker, philosopher—and me. Skipping by La Conner, with fair weather on a cool, sunny day in late September, we decide to push forth in our newly minted Ranger 29. Our goal was to take a few days, cruise northward, and deliver this boat-on-loan to the people amassed at the Tugnuts Rendezvous in Roche Harbor. By any measure a perk of the job.
The idea of this cruise evolved after a conversation with Jeff Messmer, Ranger’s head guy, during the 2015 TrawlerFest in Anacortes. Walking away, I thought it would be a curious experiment to get my dad—a lifelong sailing devotee and avowed curser of power cruisers—to experience life aboard a powerboat.
What would it be like for him to operate a boat in comfort and warmth? What would he think about the boat’s ability to go substantially faster than his sailboat’s 6-knot hull speed? Would he complain about the noise? These are questions that required answers.
Click here to read the rest of this article on the PassageMaker website.
Grab the March 2016 edition of PassageMaker to read this same delivery from the sailor’s point of view. Can we convert my father? Find out in “A tale of two rangers” which hits newsstands February 9th, 2016.