Trailers are often mistaken as a minor detail of a boat sale but ignore them at your peril. Here are some tips on finding a perfect match A mate of mine is a boat trailer hater. “They offer no joy, no fun, just constant trouble. Anyway, I’d better fix these @#$%*! lights so we can get going.”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard him indulge in that rant I could buy him a new trailer. And I’m sure his neighbours would chip in to avoid their kids learning his vocabulary through the fence. He’s not alone in considering boat trailers as necessary evils, but he’s also not alone in going for the cheapest trailer possible at the time of boat purchase.
Trailerboats are often sold as boat-motor- trailer (BMT) packages these days. This eliminates the need to shop around for a trailer but such one-size-fits-all convenience can cause some problems in the long run for boaters with special needs. Too many trailers are built to a price to sweeten package deals and some aren’t suitable for heavy-duty work. The above information shouldn’t discourage you from purchasing BMT packages; most of them are good and reputable manufacturers and boatyards usually ensure everything is well matched and up to the task.
But never let this stop you from shopping smart and asking lots of questions about the trailer—as many as you do about the boat and motor. Check the quality of all components and ask the opinion of the boatyard staff for easy modification ideas to tailor the trailer to your specific needs. They can also advise on options that make it easy keep everything running hassle-free such as bearing buddies, maintenance lubrication products and corrosion inhibitors that you should keep in the shed and use regularly.
As with all boating equipment, the best choice depends on how you intend to use it. If you have a small boat and only tow it from the house to a nearby ramp on nice, sealed, suburban roads, then your money is better spent on more boat accessories rather than constructing the only trailer that will survive Armageddon. However, if you have grand plans of towing your boat around Australia, if you frequent dodgy roads or tracks, or if your boat is heavy, then you should explain your needs carefully to the boatyard staff before you sign your savings away.
It’s also wise to discuss your tow vehicle and its capabilities to ensure the trailer set- up can work with it. Details such as trailer systems are important considerations. Seemingly unimportant things such as jockey wheel heights should also be checked—the working life of your back might reduce quickly if you have to stuff around lifting the trailer weight all the time to adjust for a difference between tow ball height (or lack thereof) and the jockey- wheel height.
The quality of suspension components should also be inspected, if for no reason other than to have a good knowledge of what load the trailer can handle in addition to the boat— you don’t want to overload it with camping gear on the road trip up the coast. Tyres should also be checked to make sure they are a suitable size, quality and style for the most common transit conditions.
Trailer length and boat-on-trailer heights should also be checked to correspond with the intended storage area. Some good news on this front is the increasing options in clever contraptions such as swing-neck drawbars which allow to you to choose a boat that’s a little bit bigger without worrying about the extra trailer length—the drawbar simply folds for storage, in some cases reducing the total length by more than a metre.
No boat should be purchased without first taking it for a spin, and the same can be said of the trailer. Have a go at launching and retrieving the boat on the trailer to see how it works with the boat. Some set-ups can facilitate more impromptu exercise than you might be comfortable with. This might inspire you to change from skids to rollers, or to add an electric winch or other items to make the launching and retrieving process more user- friendly.
Also consider the condition of your regular ramps at low tide: metropolitan boaters are relatively spoilt compared with boaters in regional areas, who may have to think about whether or not the trailer set-up is suitable to retrieve boats from shallow ramps or beaches.
As attractively priced as any package may be, money has little value when you’re standing on the side of a highway trying to find a patch of mobile phone coverage as you inspect the hull-versus-bitumen redesign that has just taken place. The arrival of the tow truck marks the premature end to your holiday and your new-boat-owner smile.
The good news is that catastrophes are easily avoided. Boat buyers have a large choice of trailers and trailer components, some of which are covered in the following Modern Boating promotion of trailers currently on the market.
A bit of homework should uncover several options for individual circumstances. If you start with a trailer that can easily handle the weight of your boat and carry out regular maintenance, your trailer will serve you well. And as I continually remind my trailer-hater mate, never forget that regardless of how little joy your trailer may directly provide, without it, you can’t get your trailerboat to the water.
It’s the workhorse, the quiet achiever that keeps your hull safe on the road and makes it possible to enjoy the greatest aspect of trailerboat ownership: taking your boat where you want, when you want.
Words Daniel Tillack Photo Mark Bean