Bob Dunshee, President of the Seattle Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association who, along with his wife Marcia, owns of a Whitehall Spirit 17 sailing model, contributes their tips on trailering. The Dunshees row and sail their boat year round.
Marcia and I believe that if our Whitehall is not easy to get to the water and into the water, we won’t use it. Same with our canoe.
Our house is a ten minute drive from Lake Union. We keep the boat on its trailer in a garage (no cover to put on and off). From the time we roll the boat out of the garage until we’re on the water is often 20 minutes or less. It takes us about four minutes (or less) to launch our boat from the trailer and be on the water (if I don’t have to walk more than 50 yards back from the car). The time to get on the water with the canoe is the same.
The devil is in the details: it’s the aggregate of the little things that slows one down. (Of course there are some big things that really slow one down too. Like a trailer that’s hard to retrieve to or launch from.)
So, first the trailer (car toppers may have stopped reading by now. Maybe another time I’ll write about canoe transport and launching.)
After much fussing, we chose an EZ Loader model 14 – 17 1250 galvanized trailer with roller bunks, i.e., rollers where the carpeted bunks would be.
To get the boat/trailer from the garage to the car, we use a dolly with balloon tires. We also attached a handle to the trailer tongue to make lifting the tongue/ball socket onto the ball hitch relatively easy. Trailers, designed for boats with outboards, are unnecessarily tongue heavy for boats without big outboards. I moved the trailer’s wheels as far forward as they would go and we still have about 60 pounds of tongue weight-more than is necessary to avoid fish tailing.
When launching, Marcia gets into the boat while it’s on the trailer. I back the trailer into the water so that the wheels don’t even touch the water-a particular advantage launching in salt water-little concern about corrosion of wheel bearings. The bearings are called “Bearing Buddies”-they keep the grease under compression to keep water out. I do add grease about once a year. In two years, I’ve seen no signs of corrosion.
Not having to put the trailer far into the water also helps keep water out of the tail lights. The lights still work without any attention after two and a half years.
I release the bow winch line, give the boat a shove and Marcia and the boat slide off the trailer. Fast.
Because the Whitehall has a long keel, I put an extra keel roller on the trailer, so there are three keel rollers. The boat is supported mainly on its keel, but a little on its bilges by the bunk rollers which conform pretty well to the curve of the bilge. I also added a support for the centerboard.
One of the rollers is Stoltz brand, and I’m thinking to replace the other two with Stoltz. They’re expensive, but they have less friction than the conventional rubber ones. (I find that I have to lubricate the rubber roller axles a couple of times a year.)
When retrieving, Marcia rows the boat onto the aft most roller, I attach the winch line, crank her and the boat onto the trailer, drive forward, and she gets out. We reattach three tie downs and we’re ready to drive away.
The bow tie down is a strap with a buckle. No knot to tie. (I’d prefer a nylon line, but Marcia dislikes knot tying.)
The stern tie downs are 3/8″ bungees-one end fastened to the boat, the other end with a stout hook to attach to an eye on the trailer. No knots. Quite adequate. Tie down takes seconds.
I want to say a word about clothing.
The boots I like are Hunter brand wellies made in Scotland. They come very high on my calf and fit my calf rather more tightly than most rubber boots-important since I wade into the water to attach the winch line to the bow when retrieving the boat. They are also excellent for gardening and walking.
I keep all my clothing (except the boots) in a Gottlieb waterproof pack that I also use as a pannier on my bike and, with a simple and ingenious adapter, as a day pack! Gore-Tex rain coat and pants, a wool sweater and fleece mittens that have a “frictive” palm-perfect for cold weather rowing. There’s room left over in the pack for other things.
Clothing is another topic. Suffice to say here, that if it isn’t competent and comfortable, one won’t go out in inclement weather.
We have a check list: I don’t want to have to think about what we have to take or do when we go out. The checklist includes things we might want to take (binoculars, GPS, duffel) and things that we must have in the boat (bilge pump, heaving line, anchor, etc). The latter list, of course, we don’t usually check.
On the visor in the car is another list:
__Before driving away from home or ramp, check:
__bilge drain plug
__coupler connection, safety chains, padlock
__lights on trailer (connect and check)
__secure tie downs
__Boat forward snug against bow stop?
__bilge drain plug in
__centerboard cable handle secured
__remove tie downs
I would like to add that the Subaru Forester’s “all wheel drive” has been very useful. I guess that doesn’t contribute to expedient launching, but it can sure contribute to expedient retrieval on a slick ramp. And quite important on a flood tide.