Crown on wheels, a few thoughts…..
(written by Crownline Owner Jim Williams)
As one who has towed many a boat many a mile, I think I can speak with some authority about pulling a water vessel on a trailer down a public road. There have been at least three different vessels pulled by me personally over highways and roads to various destinations.
Early days saw me pulling a Glasspar boat up to a ramp in north Memphis, behind an International Harvester plant to launch into a tributary of the Mississippi River. Being ten miles upriver from Memphis, this gave easy, quick access to some great backwater skiing in old river channels before the jetties had piled up too much sand behind them. Memphis did not re-direct the river channel for the I-40 bridge until early 60’s, so the old channel was still navigable for small craft well into the 70’s. At high water, it still is, but no sandbars.
But this is about pulling a boat behind a vehicle on a trailer. Doing so well takes attention to a few details, namely 1) distance from rear bumper to trailer axle. 2) a safe, secure anchoring of the trailer socket to the hitch ball. The dangers of this not being secure should be obvious enough to anyone with horse sense and a vivid imagination. 3) position of the outdrive/outboard drive while in transit. 4) backing into water.
First item- bumper to axle distance- this will determine how much the trailer will wiggle on a slight move, going straight down a road, and how much the trailer will cut in on a turn. The greater this is, the more in-cut, that simple. Keep a sharp eye on your wheels on a turn, throw the nose wide enough, all the while watching how well your trailer wheels clear the curb. Getting sloppy here can cost you a tire, especially on a heavy boat. If you are new at this, put yourself in a large, empty parking lot, and get used to the way the trailer behaves on turns. You really CANNOT get too much practice at this. Sooner or later, your instincts have to become fine-tuned to make this a safe routine maneuver.
A good, strong connection between the trailer and the towing vehicle CANNOT be overstressed! Locking the hitch ball into the trailer socket is really a no-brainer. Making SURE the trailer cannot be bounced off the ball is something you have to guarantee. Uneven pavements and rough roads both can break this connection. Safety chains are a backup to keep vehicle and trailer connected, so they HAVE to be strong enough to maintain that link, when trailer comes off the ball while towing, should that ever happen.
Position of the outboard engine/out drive is also an assumable fact, it would seem. Little bitty, low-horsepower outboard engines might well hang down while in transit, and not be a problem, depending on clearance while underway. 18” is a safe minimum, it would seem. I have passed many a small fishing boat with low horsepower engines, and they seemed to take the ride well, up or down. But the rest of the boating world HAS to keep the drive up! Uneven roads and curbs you might not see that you’re about to go off of and any number of other ground-based obstacles can hurt the prop, skeg and do some expensive damage. When you consider the mechanics of how power is transferred from a vertical drive to a horizontal shaft, you KNOW there’s some serious money in that junction, so you protect it by lifting it out of harm’s way.
As to backing the trailer down a ramp to launch the boat into the water, there are two factors to remember. The trailer axle does EXACTLY what the front of the vehicle is doing, in terms of direction. Since you are going in reverse, steering is the opposite of what it is going forward. That’s almost stupid simple, but not something that you automatically consider, so keep it in mind, get used to it. Again, practice in a large empty space for awhile until you mentally get used to what’s going on is a great idea. The trailer axle is on the other side of a giant lever, the rear axle of the car is the fulcrum around which everything is swinging. The trailer does what the nose does, goes in the same direction. You end up being very slow, very careful in your moves backward, watching for how much steering wheel turn it takes to direct the axle straight downhill on a ramp.
These issues addressed, I will add a few more thoughts. We got our Crown without a trailer, it was in the water. We didn’t want to move it around on land, except for maintenance. When I did, I had to borrow a trailer. Lane width gets to be a central topic here. Interstate lanes are 12’ wide, city lanes not so much. I distinctly remember towing our 250 down a city street, and the trailer wheels sat right on the lane lines-OOPS! This might call for a wide load sign on the rear, or at least a red flag to draw attention to the load needing extra room on the sides.