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Thoughts on Trailers


Every year we bring 'Fiddler's Green' ashore and trail her to an airy winter store, under cover.  With a wooden boat, even one built as mine is, with modern epoxy glues, it seems to keep her in much better order, than under a tarp in the open. We need only give the paintwork a clean and polish, and a single coat to the 'brightwork'.
We only tow her about 3 miles now, but it was 30 miles  till we moved nearer the coast.  Even so the trailer must be top notch.  We built our own trailer back in 1979, and have been modifying it ever since!   The first thing you notice is it has 6 wheels!  It was the best way to spread the load, 3.5 tons, over the trailer wheels.  The wheels and hubs are Ford Transit, with 8 ply tyres.  We never wear the tread much, even allowing for the 'scrubbing action' when the trailer is manoeuvred at low speed, but the sidewalls crack with sunshine, despite trying to shade them whilst the trailer is in store.  I have just replaced the tyres with recycled, part worn tyres. 
To keep the boat stable when towing, we chain her down by her bilge keels. We found early on that roping down damages paint and wood, and is far from secure.  Heavy duty rigging screws, suitably greased then seized with line, make the boat and trailer a solid combination to tow. She will tow happily at 40 mph plus, though we tend to keep under that.
The bob stay fitting is also used to hold the bow down, forcing the stem into a substantial bow chock.  Having towed Eventides for 30 years now, I think we have smoothed out all the wrinkles.  There are side reflectors and the mudguards are painted white for high visibility, though we try not to travel after dark.  The boat is legal to tow at under 8.5ft wide.  The trailer board is mounted on the stern rail.
Up till a few years ago we launched and recovered off the trailer. The wheels were equipped with bearing savers, grease filled and pressurised, the suspension is rubber, salt water proof, or so we thought!   We have a set of docking arm, marked with the boats draft and fitted with rope holders so we can secure to the trailer on entering.  The trailer was then pulled from the water with rope to the Land Rover, to check all was in the right position, before chaining down.  If it was not in the right place we could roll back into the water and try again.  As this was a laborious task, we soon added steel guides to the trailer, near the bilge keels and the centre keel, so the boat could only go in one way.  A simple rope and metal hook around the bobstay and we could ensure the bow stayed tight in the right place and I did not have to wade around prodding in the murky, and oft cold water of the Essex coast!
Now, after having to replace the rubber indespension fittings, as they rusted internally, we use the marina travel lift to launch and recover.  It also means we can quickly anti foul the bits masked by the trailer, just before she is launched!  The marina lads find it easy as we can simply take the boat to the crane, they do not have to come and pick us up, and to further aid things we have stuck a set of triangles, made from reflective material, (so they show up in a torch beam), where their slings have to go, so they do not get trapped on the trailer.
The launch and recovery is so slick now that the marina are able to fit our launch or lift in between other boats in their schedule, smiles all round.
The lads always comment about the clean hull and shiny prop too, and that is at the end of the year as well, see the 'What works' page!
John Williams
An update, October 2004.
After many moons of use the trailer is still earning her keep every winter.  The general design and layout works.  However I was asked today a simple question and realised the answer was not in the article! 
How wide is an Eventide's bilge keel base?
Well my trailer allows for 6 feet between the keels and that has been OK for not only F.G. but many other Eventides that have been moved on the trailer.  We should point out that if the main keel and therefore bilge keels are deepened,  as we tend to do these days to make our boats sail better, the measurement will increase slightly.  F.G. has a 4 inch deeper main keel and the bilge keels are just 1 & 1/2 inch shallower than the main keel and they are still inside the 6 ft mark.  This also allows the trailer to be the right width, less than 7 ft 6 inch wide in old money!
We do have to have two timber fillets or chocks, fixed to the trailer, to take the difference up.  Do make sure they are well fastened.  I well remember one of our first towing outings, when I was following my 24 ft Eventide 30 years or so ago, dodging the bits of wood flying out and desperately flashing my friend driving the Land Rover to stop as the boat lurched and rolling on the trailer, it's chocks well gone!
No damage done but it was a learning experience!