September 10, 2013

Answering boat-ramp problems

ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT tasks in life is backing a boat trailer down a launch ramp. Some people seem to be born with that necessary skill to prevent the trailer from jack-knifing in the first 20 feet, while others, lacking in this skill, never seem to be able to learn from their mistakes.

I was taught that if you hold the car’s steering wheel on the bottom, instead of the top, when you’re backing down the ramp you simply turn the wheel the way you want the trailer (and boat) to go. But I was never taught how much you need to turn the wheel. That comes with practice, I suppose, but I’ve never been able to practice because on the few occasions when I’ve been asked to back a friend’s boat down the ramp, the trailer has somehow ended up sideways across my intended path of progress.

I know of people who have added a tow-hitch to the front of their cars. After they’ve towed the trailer to the head of the ramp in the usual way, they unhitch and then fasten the trailer to the front hitch. They can then see exactly what is happening as they guide the trailer down the ramp, and the way to turn the steering wheel becomes quite obvious and natural. You can do it with your hands on top, for a start.

But you have to be careful about how far you drive the front end of the car into the water. The engine doesn’t like being submerged. This can make for difficulties in getting the boat to budge off the trailer if you can’t get it into water deep enough to float it.

The Canadian comic odd-job man, Red-Green, has the answer to these problems, though, and that is to make one rigid component of the car-trailer combination. That does away with the troublesome universal joint at the hitch.

Here he is on YouTube, in a piece called "Red-Green’s boat-car," showing you how to do it for yourself.

Today’s Thought
Beware of people carrying ideas. Beware of ideas carrying people.
— Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Foreign Bodies

“And how do you find the food at boarding school, son?”
“Oh, we fight over it all the time, Dad.”
“Wow. That good, is it?”
“Not exactly, Dad. The loser has to eat it.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

No comments: