Why you should rebuild the trailer before launching your "completed, ready to test" boat project...

by Peter
(Reevesville, SC, USA)

After years of reading and looking, I bought my first boat in 1986, an early 70's Cobia Centaur runabout, inboard outboard with sraight 6 chevy motor.

After about six months of clean up and fix up, I thought the boat was ready to test.

I had worked on the winch, replaced the wiring and lights, the bunks.

But what I didn't know...

With the help of neighbor/good friend and with my 4 year old son along, we launched at a public landing in N Charleston.

When we returned from a short cruise on the river, the tide was out.

Unaware that the ramp dropped off, I backed my trailer (an old Murray dual axle tilt trailer with an odd configuration, single long springs upside down, connected to the axles) down the ramp.

We tried to retrieve the boat, but could not winch it onto the trailer, even with the trailer tilting, the winch did not have enough mechanical advantage.

I backed the trailer a bit further down the ramp and the rear wheels dropped off the ramp.

With the trailer deeper in the water, we were able to load the boat.

But when I tried to pull up the ramp, no go.

My little '82 Dodge Caravan 4 cylinder couldn't get the rear wheels up onto the ramp.

I didn't know that that odd undercarriage was the real reason, not lack of power.

What to do??

To our rescue came a stranger who was parked up in the landing, people watching.

In a pickup with huge tires, 4 wheel drive, a hitch on the front and the back, he pulled down the ramp and hooked up to my trailer.

He was inebriated, "No problem," he assured me.

I should have had second thoughts.

I should have launched the boat, lifted the trailer up onto the ramp, then reloaded after the tide came in...

Should have, would have, could have...

With a roar of the engine, he put the truck in reverse to back up the ramp.

The trailer went up the tramp, the wheels and axles stayed behind!

The adventure got worse...

I left the boat at the landing overnight; thankfully, no one stole it.

The next day, I removed the undercarriage from the trailer, but could not repair it as stores were closed (Sunday).

With the intention of mooring the boat at the public marina overnight, I drove downriver to Charleston.

In route, the torque coupling spun.

On an inboard/outboard, that means that the boat does not go any further.

I had to be towed into the marina.

Monday morning, as I was in a marine store buying a hose for the bilge pump and looking for springs, my wife called (this was pre-cell phone days), told me that the marina had called, was told that "the boat was sinking."

When I arrived, I found the boat awash.

Another twelve months, engine & wiring replaced, trailer rebuilt, she was good to go.

Even though my ignorance led to a few other break downs, we enjoyed that boat for 12 years...

Moral of the story, when you work on a boat project, rebuild the trailer.

No matter how good it looks, unless it is new, at least tear it down, inspect, rebuild if necessary.
Especially springs, hubs, axles, winch cable, rollers, bunks.


Comments for Why you should rebuild the trailer before launching your "completed, ready to test" boat project...

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Trailer trivials
by: Dave S

We all started boating with smaller boats on trailers. And we get smarter each time. Not everything you hear is true.

Several years ago we went to Hinkley Lake (Adirondacks, NY)to launch and enjoy the day. Since the state launch had a line a mile long a tip from a passer-by set the long day in motion.

We went to the other side of the lake to launch behind a small hotel. The ramp was nothing more than gravel to the shoreline and beyond only what the locals said.....Everyone uses the launch and no problems.

So I backed my 17' boat/trailer into the water. Floated off the boat.....Then, I couldn't get the trailer out. It was apparent the trailer went over the ledge (drop-off). It took a dump truck and finally a tow truck to get us out of the hole.

The boat? I drove it to the state launch to pull it out.

The truth: The only boats launched behind the hotel were car-tops carried in/out. We were the most entertainment seen there in decades...so they say.


I was slightly luckier than you, slightly !!
by: Capt. Dean Bachelor

In the late 80's I did the same damn thing, almost.

We had a 74 Sea Ray 24' with a tandem axle shore lander trailer.

I was backing in to the water on a Sunday after the day of boating, and out of the blue (or labbatt blue light ) kerplunk over the end of the slab went the axles, I yanked and spun the tires and hooked another truck (people waiting to load after me!! ) to us and pulled, but nothing.

This is where I got lucky, about a qtr. mile away was a wrecker towing company (owned by my wife's cousins), SHE called them, they came down to the ramp, luckily the ramp dropped off at the end of a wall type set up, so the wrecker could back up to the edge, extend the boom, lower the hook, (as I waded out, walking on the trailer frame) looped the frame with the hook and my foot.

Up went the trailer, ahead I pulled about 4 feet, hurried up and stuck the boat on it and pulled out of the way so the other dozen or so boaters could get loaded just before dark.

After that I carried a 12 pole on the trailer and ck any ramp we questioned forever, well for the next 18 years we had that boat.

Thanks for the laugh, sorry at your expense :))

Capt. Dean of 63 Owens is part of the blowinganddrifting fleet blog




“If it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger”
by: Mike

I can’t remember who was responsible for the above quote but there is another one about learning from other’s mistakes that sounds to me to be much less painful.

So, thanks for sharing Peter, these things happen even to the best of us.




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