Dave Selby's latest podcast and column, as published in the October 2015 issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine.
Why must boat trailers be such a drag? Dave Selby’s trailer is more nose-heavy than Cyrano De Bergerac…
The great thing about trailer-sailers is that boat trailers give you something else to maintain, refurbish, modernise, refurbish, improve, refurbish, break, refurbish, repair, refurbish, spend money on and fret about.
Actually, it’s a wonder that anyone with a trailer-sailer ever goes sailing – there’s just so much stuff to do.
Indeed, wherever Sailfish folk gather to prise open their Tupperware containers and break out the Custard Creams, there’s only one subject that exercises them more than Tupperware and Custard Creams, window replacement, keels falling off, and making boat coat curtains; and that’s boat trailers. They’re variously an object of envy, a means of one-upmanship and a source of endless amusement.
Bob Smith, who racks up more miles towing his Sailfish than a Rank Xerox photocopier salesman in the 1980s, has often regaled Sailfish brethren with tales of the day he was overtaken by a Sailfish that looked just like his… it was his.
Miraculously, this is not an isolated incident, and in every case the Sailfish seems to have glided to a gentle halt in a hedge. Just as the Sailfish can sail itself to windward, I imagine this exceptional balance was designed into its road-going capabilities.
Others have been overtaken by their trailer wheels. That’s probably not a design feature.
The thing is that trailer-sailer types find all this endlessly amusing. I don’t. I hate towing, and I loathe my trailer even more. It’s a pig-iron pig of a thing. I’ve long harboured a dream of towing my Sailfish to the enchanted inland sea of the Gulf of Morbihan in western France, but my trailer’s holding me back. It’s so ridiculously nose-heavy that my heavyweight 1989 Volvo 240 estate squats on its haunches each time I hitch it up.
After taking advice from a nameless friend who’s an architect (his name’s Julian) and knows about levers, pivot points, geometry and stuff, and how to make simple things complicated, I decided to move the axle of my trailer forwards a couple of inches to redress the balance.
The amazing thing is that I’m actually here to tell the story, cos I did it all alone – while my Sailfish was still on its trailer – by crawling underneath, jacking the trailer up onto bricks with a bottle-jack, dropping the axle and moving it forward a couple of inches.
I was immensely proud of my work, and even thought of submitting my first proper practical article to PBO, but the legal department took a different view. They’re generally a bit twitchy about the whole notion of boats and water, except during Cowes Week when they’re all on a corporate canapé team-building exercise.
The rest of the time they have five lawyers to monitor the activities of each PBO staff member – and a whole floor devoted entirely to me (although a lot of them are off with stress, especially the week after Cowes).
The gist of their tsunami of emails was something along the lines of the potential £400billion liability arising from the test case ‘Everyone in the world with a boat trailer vs Selby’.
Editor David Pugh said he didn’t have the budget. I was rather disappointed, not least because my tireless endeavours are directly responsible for providing the ‘Dave Selby Unit’ with the largest boat at Cowes and brand new top-grade oilies every year.
In fact, it was rather crushing – which was also their point. And in any case, I found my trailer was still far too heavy on the nose.
Then I had a eureka moment that didn’t involve architect input, and realised that if I simply moved the winch post back a few inches that would do the trick. I tied the nose of the trailer to a tree, tethered the stern of my Sailfish to my Volvo and ever so gently let the clutch out.
Nothing happened. Marlin was stuck fast. Then I started taking a run at it, the rope broke and I nearly ended up as a ‘notice to mariners’ on the River Blackwater. Eventually, with a bigger rope, I did a racing start and Marlin lurched backwards.
I did like they say in PBO and put scales under the nose, and found the weight about right. The only trouble was that the stanchion rollers I’d removed from under the stern wouldn’t go back, as the boat was now further back and the gap had reduced.
Now my Sailfish teeters perilously on the trailer, and it’s all my nerves can take to tow it half a mile to launch and recover it once a year.
Mind you, they say trailer- sailers expand your cruising range, and it’s certainly true for legal departments. If I ever hear the Dave Selby Unit has bonded in the Gulf of Morbihan, I’ll be livid.
But I’ve got another really practical idea. I’m going to submit my next PBO practical article during Cowes Week.