Expert advice for winter checks of trailer-sailers

Don’t leave the full weight of your trailer sailer on its trailer tyres all winter – chock the trailer up to take the weight off, and better still remove the wheels off and store them under cover

Winter is here and trail-sail boats are ashore, sat on trailers with wheels removed to both hide from the weather’s ageing effects and damage from supporting the static trailer for many months. Prudent owners will check from time to time that the slackened-off brake shoes are not binding against expanding rust inside brake drums (checking and lubricating the bearings can wait until the wheels are returned to the trailer).

Make sure water is not accumulating where it can freeze and damage GRP.

The typical way that trail-sail boats are used means that, even with minimal care, they can age very slowly. A 20-year-old boat may have a hull that is, apart from scratches and some cosmetic chalking of the gel coat, as sound as the day it came out of the mould.

The same can’t be said for fittings like winches, cam-cleats and keel mechanisms that may no longer be made for older boats. With the boat sat on its trailer, the owner is in the enviable position of being able to dismantle everything without fear of the dreaded ‘plop’, when something falls over the side.

There can be some very pleasant days as winter turns to spring, and taking advantage of these days to perhaps strip down the keel mechanism to inspect and lubricate the mechanism also allows for plenty of time to acquire replacements for worn parts.

Examine the rig

Rigging should always be pulled in a straight line, but when a mast is being raised with the rigging attached, Sod’s Law will ensure that a bottle screw will occasionally become trapped under a chain-plate and twisted. If this isn’t noticed, the screw will be bent, as will the stainless steel wire. If you find a bent screw, it’s almost certain the wire will have been bent to an even sharper angle, and although it might apparently self straighten, some strands may be damaged. It is prudent to make a close look of these places when the mast is down for the winter. Forestays with roller reefing systems are also at risk of damage where they meet the mast.