Category: Boat Operation
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"A trailer is your magic carpet to new and adventurous boating waters. Ideas like these make trailering a breeze"
Boat trailers aren't really temperamental-they only seem that way to novice outboard owners struggling to back the family boat into the back yard. Then a boat trailer seems to come alive and display a mulish personality-throwing a tantrum and obstinately backing into areas where you particularly did not wish it to go. A lot of innocent shrubbery has fallen victim to willful trailers.
But backing a trailer is one of the easiest tricks to learn. Just steer with the bottom of your car's steering wheel.
That's all there is to it. When you want to back your trailer" simply put your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel. To back the trailer toward the left push the bottom of the wheel left. To back right pull forward to straighten out ruefully examine the rose bushes edging the driveway and try again. This time easy does it. Turn the wheel a bit at a time. Most people speedily learn that a trailer adds a lot of length to the automobile that's towing it. They adjust rapidly to the passing parking and turning situations constantly arising. Extra room must be allowed when you pull out to pass another car or when you park " and you must learn to swing a little wider on those corners.
The all-around view. Be sure you have adequate rear-view vision. Install side-mounting mirrors on your can" " and select towing mirrors with long arms if you have an unusually large boat. There should be mirrors on both sides of the car; you need rear vision on the right when passing.
But no mirror provides back-of-the-boat vision. There will always be a small dead spot directly aft of your rig. A tailgater riding close herd could escape notice.
Here are two tricks that will help you keep tabs on following traffic:
1. Make it a matter of automatic habit to glance frequently at your mirrors - every 20 or 30 seconds. The man who does so is a safer driver whether towing a boat or not; keeping tabs on changing traffic situations is a basic rule of defensive driving - the safe way to operate on the highways. You'll spot any problem as cars move in behind you.
2. Make a tiny jog on the highway every now and then" especially if you have reason to suspect a tailgater. Ease to one side and drift back again. This maneuver will pull the trailer briefly to one side " giving you an opportunity to look directly back into that blind spot.
Here are two other highway tricks for safer" " more relaxed towing;
1. Always watch the traffic far ahead" keeping alert for changing situations. It could be a traffic light or a crowded one-lane movement through an area under repair. Whatever it is " watch for it.
2. Don't be trapped in the wrong lane by traffic. Don't pull out to pass a slower vehicle when there's a possibility of traffic lights " blind curves " or side roads ahead. A lot of thoughtless drivers pull out of side roads without realizing that an unseen passing situation coming at them could block both lanes.
Distributing the load. Even the novice outboarder knows his boat must be loaded correctly on the trailer. Too much weight aft and the trailer will develop a tendency to wiggle under way. She'll dance a hula on the highway" " swaying back and forth.
The answer of course" is to set up the trailer so there is adequate tongue weight. At least 50 pounds of weight at the tongue forward but not over 100. Too much weight there is hard on the car springs and shocks " and overload springs are necessary. An extra two pounds of air in the rear tires helps.
Balancing a rig for towing is not a critical task" and it's a rare boat that hulas all the way home from ramp or fishing camp. But it is not unusual for careless stowage to produce a faint bothersome occasional hula. Sometimes " all it takes to upset the balance is a load of fish in a box at the stern.
If you should be plagued by an occasional tendency to hula on the part of the trailer" here's how you can control it and keep going: Just steer against the swaying with tight " tiny movements of the steering wheel - matching the rhythm of the swaying trailer. Any good driver can master the knack the first time he tries it. It kills the swaying every time.
If you have a long tow ahead of you" you should pull off and reload the boat to stop any tendency toward sway. But on short hauls especially on narrow roads with insufficient shoulder room for safety this jogging of the steering wheel - but easy " now - does the trick.
Preventive maintenance. Virtually everyone understands that trailers" like autos and boats demand maintenance and care. Advice of this kind is easily come by for it is often repeated by dealers and by fellow boatmen who learn even as you and I " that rust and corrosion must be prevented rather than cured.
But a once-over-lightly on prime points wouldn't be amiss" " especially where a little know-how takes the work out of it:
1. Watch your tire pressures. It only takes a few minutes to check the tires at your neighborhood service station. Take a small paintbrush and letter the required tire pressure for your rig right on the trailer somewhere. If you don't" and you forget the figure file this in your memory: Nearly all trailer tires take at least 40 pounds of pressure and sometimes more. Never put in less than 40 pounds. Make it a point to check toe-in too. Sometimes trailer tires get out of alignment " and wear is expensively rapid.
2. Keep an eye out for rust. When it shows up on the trailer" " sand immediately and touch up with aerosol-spray paint in a matching color.
3. Watch for corrosion-around salt water especially. It often shows up first in sticky rollers. Tip: Drop a bit of oil on the rollers every other time you launch the boat and they'll never stick.
4. And take care of that winch. Too many outboarder's don't. Unwind the cable every now and then; look for rusted" rough spots on the reel of the winch which could abrade the cable and cause later breakage. A broken cable if snapped under load " can whiplash back to the car to damage it or cause personal injury. Be sure cable and winch are in good condition by checking several times a season.
A little preventive maintenance keeps the trailer in tip-top shape and spares you a heavy work session-which is sure to occur if you let things slide. One of the smartest tricks with trailers is to handle maintenance as you go" " avoiding that big buildup of chores.
Ever unhook a trailer and drive the car away without disconnecting the lights? It happens now and then" producing electrical confusion while the repentant skipper sweats over getting the right wire back in the right connection. It's easy to keep it all straight if you remember that trailer-lamp wires are color-coded by industry standards. And the color code is simple for a boatman to keep in mind: The red wire is for the left turn light. Red is the color of the port (left) running light on the boat " so it's easy to remember.
The green wire is for the right turn lamp-and green is the color of the right" or starboard " boat light.
Black or brown is stop" and white is for ground. (Snow is white " snow is on the ground. Helps you remember.)
Keep the color code in mind. It'll help you treat wiring problems. And if your trailer wires aren't color-coded" " then tag'em. Tie identifying tags on each wire. Some day you might be glad you did.
Launching-with no sweat. Last" but not least " a few launching tricks worth knowing:
If you have a very heavy rig" " you've learned to hate launching. Recovery-especially with a power winch-is already a breeze. But it takes muscle and sweat to manhandle that hull off the trailer and into the water. So take all the work out of it by using your winch. Lash a block-a pulley-to the trailer frame aft. A little experimenting will show you exactly where it should go. Make up a short length of good nylon line-strong stuff-and add a hook at one end.
Now" when launching your boat " pass the nylon line through the block on the trailer frame and hook it into the boat's bow eye. Pull your winch cable down and make it fast to the other end of the line. Then apply power with the winch. The reversed pull exerted through the block will slowly haul your boat off the trailer into the water. No sweat-literally.
You shouldn't back a trailer so far into the water that wheels or bearings are submerged. There is also the risk" with light skiffs or utility craft launched from a beach " of getting stuck. Sometimes it's because of poor vision from the wheel-and poor advice from a fishing partner.
Here's a trick that you may or may not be able to use: Put a bumper hitch on the front of your car. When launching in tricky situations" " unhook the trailer from the rear and make it fast to that hitch on the front. Now you can see what you're doing as you drive-forward-down to the water's edge on that remote beach.
Getting a boat out is sometimes a different cup of tea. Maybe tide conditions have changed" " and you can't get the car right down to the water's edge-but you can roll the trailer down by hand.
If so" anchor the trailer firmly in place (chocking the wheels) and use a handy " small block and tackle to get it out of there after you've loaded the boat aboard.
Now the job is easy: Winch the boat up on the trailer" then rig one of those modern light tackles to a tree or even to the car farther up on firm ground. Use the tackle to haul the trailer out onto better footing. If you have a power winch " you can mount it to your car bumper with a special bracket made for this purpose.
It's a simple trick but one that can spare you a lot of unnecessary agony when you must launch and reload in difficult circumstances.
Once you master a few tricks with trailers" all you tow around is fun-on-wheels. Skip the tricks and ignore basic maintenance hints " and you tow only trouble.