Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tug Town

We are at the Swinomish Northern Lights casino, adjacent to the Swinomish channel near Anacortes, Washington (map). This casino has an actual RV park complete with power and water hookups, but we did not need them and are instead parked in the RV day lot. I called security ahead of our arrival and he seemed perplexed by the question, but said it was OK to park here. We had a nice dinner last night in their very casual restaurant.

Yesterday morning we walked down to the Nordic Northwest office and met up with salesman Geoff, who had agreed to take us out on the water as well as on a tour of the factory. Scheduling issues ended up flopping the two, and after Geoff secured permission from the harbormaster for Odyssey to remain in place beyond the noon checkout, we headed off to the factory near the Skagit airport. The tour was very interesting and we learned a great deal about the boats.

After returning to the marina, walking the dog, and grabbing a quick bite, we strolled back to the dock where Geoff met us aboard a Nordic Tug 42. We had about an hour cruise wherein Louise and I took turns at the helm and walking around the various parts of the vessel under way, including the engine room. The boat handled well and it was a nice ride (although seas were calm), but I felt like the boat really wanted to go faster than I wanted to drive it. We expect to drive around mostly at a very efficient "hull speed," and these boats have semi-planing hull forms and enormous engines, so they can easily do twice that speed.

Between the tour and the cruise it was a great day, and we are grateful to Geoff and the factory folks for generously spending so much time with us and answering the kinds of questions that only a couple of engineers would ask. It was well into the afternoon by the time we wrapped up and made it back to the bus.

We knew we were scheduled to meet Steve, the American Tug salesman, at their factory first thing this morning, and he had suggested we park in an enormous lot just south of the plant intended for boat trailers and other over-sized vehicles. Before we stowed the dish to leave Anacortes, I had a look at the route and the lot on the satellite view. Somewhere in that process I realized that the lot actually belonged to the marina and port of La Conner, and I went to their web site to check up on the overnight parking rules. Not good -- no "camping" allowed. A quick call to the port office confirmed that we could not actually park overnight in the suggested spot.

None of our usual parking resources turned up anything close to the factory, and I reluctantly had to call Steve to let him know we could not just meet there as planned. After a few minutes of noodling, we agreed that he would instead pick us up here at the casino this morning and drive us down to the factory and back.

Once again it was an interesting tour and we learned a great deal. Considering these two companies are only a few miles apart, make very similar boats, share a hull designer, and in fact were started and staffed by many of the same people, there are some rather interesting key differences. As usual it is never a cut-and-dried case of one being superior to the other, but rather that each boat has its strengths and weaknesses. We were very glad to have had the opportunity to tour these factories back-to-back, where it was all fresh in our minds and we could make such comparisons. And if we end up with either of these boats, it will be helpful to have seen then from the inside out.

In a few minutes we will pack up here and head over to Mount Vernon. It is a few miles off our route, which will be east on Washington 20, but it is the only Wal-Mart we will pass for the next several days, and we need supplies. First we will stop at the gas station right here next to the casino -- the tribe is selling fuel cheaper than anyplace else around, and we will top up our diesel at just $3.019 per gallon.

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