The Need For Speed

An Alaskan voyage gives three boaters memories for a lifetime.

Protector Targa 30, RIB, Tender
With a 56-knot top hop, the Targa 30 offers on-the-water fun at serious speed.Courtesy Abner Kingman

Clare peterson peered through the weather-tight wraparound windshield of the Protector Targa 30's enclosed cabin. She slid the port window open to get a better view. She looked forward. She looked aft. Then she turned to port again and looked out even farther. "Wow," she worried aloud. "Look at all these rocks." It was low tide in the Wrangell Narrows in Alaska, with the depth dropping so low that previously submerged rocks and shoals seemed to be growing up and out through the water's surface.

Protector Targa 30, Alaska Adventure
Ralph and Clare sit under the protection of the Protector 30 Targa's enclosed cabin.Courtesy Brian Peterson

The Protector’s draft could handle the relatively shallow waterway, and the boat’s ¾-inch solid hand-laid fiberglass construction combined with its individually sealed, seven-chamber hypalon collar was sturdy enough to take almost any impact. Still, Clare and her two fellow crew members didn’t want to end up a crash statistic like many others who had passed through here. By one famous account, at least one boat had wrecked every quarter-mile of the stretch — and it went on, from here, for another 22 miles.

Alaskan Adventure, Protector Targa 30
The harbor in Ketchikan.Courtesy Clare Peterson

These kinds of experiences can’t happen aboard just any 30-foot boat, and they rarely happen to people like Clare, who found herself on the five-day, 1,100-mile journey without ever having been offshore before. The week before this epic voyage, she’d been bartending. Her friend, Ralph Silverman, had texted her to ask, “Have you ever been to Alaska?” Ralph was joining his friend, Brian Peterson — an employee of Protector Boats, which had to return a loaner vessel from a customer in Alaska to a boat-test site in Seattle. Ralph and Brian needed a third set of hands to help document the trip through notes and photos as they ran the rugged Targa at 40, 50 and sometimes 56 knots.

Whale, Alaska, Adventure
A breaching whale is quite the sight.Courtesy Clare Peterson

To most people, that kind of journey on a 30-footer might sound out there, but for Protector, it’s business as usual. The company is well-known for its military and commercial craft; in recent years, it has added creature comforts to appeal to the yacht market. It now offers three lines (Targa, Center Console and Tauranga), ranging from 22 to 46 feet length overall, with the Targa 30 being the smallest in that line.

Alaska Adventure
Clare is a happy cruiser.Courtesy Brian Peterson

As Clare stepped aboard, she had the benefit of a 130-gallon tank carrying enough fuel to minimize stops along the way, plus those sliding enclosure windows, shock-mitigating captain’s chairs and split rear bench seating. She and her friends might have been cruising through some potentially treacherous waters, but they felt safe and ready, even when Poseidon seemingly took things up yet another notch.

“Iceberg!” Brian yelled. “Right ahead!”

It was still Day One when Ralph pulled back on the Targa’s throttles, easing the twin 300 hp Mercury Verado outboards to a crawl. Six eyes fixated on the small, distant object that was growing in size as the 30-footer approached. It didn’t look all that big and scary, but then again, neither had the iceberg that brought down the 883-foot RMS Titanic.

Alaska Adventure
One of the trip’s natural beauties, a waterfall.Courtesy Clare Peterson

The Targa’s collar has an Armour Guard nose cone and chafe-resistant rub rails, but just the same, Ralph made sure to keep plenty of room between the boat and towering ice, knowing only about 10 percent of the berg was visible above the surface. When the boat had cleared the hazard, Ralph let out a sigh. Clare barely seemed fazed at all.

“There’s a rainbow behind it,” she said with a smile. “Let me get some pictures.”

For the next day and a half, the seas were smooth, but winds picked up on the afternoon of Day Three. More than 115 miles stood between the Targa’s crew and a warm place to bunk down for the night. At first, the wind was hardly noticeable, but it reached 30-knot gusts in a matter of hours. After 65 miles, the waves rose above the cabin to 6 feet, then 8, then 10, eventually reaching 12. The vessel surfed up and down at a measured pace, looking smaller and smaller as the seas grew bigger and bigger.

“She’s handling it well, but we should probably push through this,” Ralph said.

“I’m taking her up to 25 knots.”

Protector Targa 30
Twin 300 hp Mercury Verados provide power.Courtesy Abner Kingman

After nearly two hours of battling a tempestuous ocean, the group arrived in Port Hardy, British Columbia, dry and in good spirits. They hadn’t felt nervous, but stepping off the boat brought a sense of relief.

Two mornings later, at the start of the final 88-mile leg, Ralph set the tone anew. “Keep your eyes peeled for Orcas,” he said. “I’ve seen them in this area before.”

The Targa was cruising at nearly 45 knots when Clare signaled to slow down. Ralph reduced speed just 30 minutes into the final leg. The Protector fell off plane fast.

“Look off in the distance!” Clare yelled. “Ralph, I think you missed your calling as a whale-watching guide.”

The three gazed for 15 minutes as several orca pods passed, heading north. With the Verados nearly silent, the trio could hear a synchronized chorus of blowholes exhaling.

There was no peeking through the opened port window for Clare this time. She was out on deck, in the sun, grinning. Brian and Ralph joined her.

She looked to them, remembering everything she had seen in five days, and said, “What a perfect ending to the trip.”

Alaska
Aside from two stretches of dense fog and a two-hour storm on Day Three, the group had relatively easy cruising from Alaska to Seattle.Clare Peterson

A BUILDER IS BORN

Protector started off building high-performance search-and-rescue boats. It created a narrow, deep-V, hard-bottom inflatable craft with a solid fiberglass hull and a hypalon tube. The tube was integrated with the hull via proprietary sponson cutouts — circular cuts where the collar touches the hull. “Traditionally, you have a hard-sided boat and a collar is bolted to it,” says Brian Peterson, Protector’s West Coast sales representative. “When you step on the [Protector’s] collar, the whole boat rocks. It’s part of the boat. With other [RIBs], the collar will just roll over until it hits the water, hits the hull or the bolting system engages it.”

Alaska Adventure, Protector Targa 30
Alaska by the numbers.Courtesy Brian Peterson

BUILT ON EXPERIENCE

The way Protectors are built — for commercial and military use — makes them ideal for those who want to escape on ultimate cruising adventures. The Targa 30 is an evolution of Protector’s previous 28-foot model, with options for wider bunks, a redesigned dashboard to accommodate larger displays and better ergonomics for electronics, higher steering wheel placement for more room at the helm and an additional 6 square feet of cockpit space.