Trailer setup is important for safe transportation and easy handling. Most of the damage on wooden sailboats occurs on the road or during launch and retrieval.
Let’s start with the trailer itself. I have skimped on the trailer cost in the past making it a two-person job to launch. This photo is of the first launch of Moonlight in 1980. I bought old cheap trailers like this one and even built my own. In the end, I decided it was worth investing in a decent trailer as it was false economy to do otherwise.
By investing in a modern, fully galvanised trailer I made it a lot easier to launch and retrieve and improved the safety on the road. Trailers built for aluminium boats are usually very lightweight, which means that a lot of twisting and vibration stress gets transferred directly to the hull. I overcame this by investing in a heavier than needed trailer that could handle a much bigger aluminium boat. One issue with this can be heavy springs. If your boat is light-weight, you may be wise to replace the springs with lighter ones. In the case of Moonlight, she is a very heavily built boat so the springs are perfect.
Over-inflation of the tyres can result in extra stress and vibration. Many people put too much pressure in their tyres, whereas I prefer to use the minimum needed to prevent sidewall damage. If your trailer has brakes more pressure may be needed but don’t overdo it.
There are 3 kinds of compounds used in rollers here in Australia. The blue compound is designed for aluminium boats. Red is for fibreglass, and the black rubber type of rollers are made out of cheap rubber and should be avoided because the get flat spots and end up preventing smooth launch and retrieval. If your back is anything like mine, we could all do without having to struggle and strain to get the boat moving off the trailer.
When you install your rollers, check for a straight run along the keel which most boats have, and get your rollers set up so they are in perfect alignment. Don’t be afraid to put a bit of grease on the pins, as this is the single most effective way of reducing friction. Most boats, regardless of what they are constructed from are best supported 100% on the keel. The guides and wobble rollers should be away from the bilge, where sand and grit will damage the finish, not to mention physical damage to the hull.
The setup will vary from boat to boat, but in all my boats, I keep the guides and wobble rollers away from the hull once the boat is in its final position on the trailer. These guides and rollers are normally not intended to take the load, but they do help in keeping the boat upright when winched on.
I use flat webbing in preference to a cable on my winch. It is nicer to handle and won’t damage your boat.
Once fully on the trailer, I bring the stem into light contact with the stem roller. This can be avoided if preferred, as it is yet another point of contact where road stresses transfer to your hull. If you do keep it clear at the stem, you will need more attention to the tie-down system.I use an inch and a half square section aluminium bar across the beam, located with two bolts into the rowlock (oarlocks) holes. Has the benefit of stiffening the gunwales, and providing an offset for tie-down straps. The eyebolts are located away from the hull to keep the metal fittings well clear and keep flapping straps from causing damage.
A custom made tarp around the stem and bow will stop gravel damage while on-road, and the same can apply to the inside of the mudguards where mine is showing the impact of many years of wear and tear on the road.
I used to be paranoid about not putting the bearings of the trailer in the water, but I recently relaxed this rule. I found I was getting damage from getting the boat on and off a higher in the water trailer. So I dunked the wheel bearings, having allowed them to cool off while I rig the boat onshore.
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