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February 1, 1999 Issue


February 15, 1999 Issue

February 1, 1999 Issue


Moving Boats on Trailers

By Earle Caldwell

A "small boat" is one that I can push around on its trailer and lift the tongue of the trailer without the aid of a tongue jack. These are the boats I prefer.

My 13' Whaler and 12' Pelican both fall within my definition of small, and can be easily pushed or pulled around on level hard ground or concrete. A few years ago we moved to a home with a lot that sloped from first floor level at the front yard to basement level at the back yard. It was easy enough to get the boats down into the backyard for storage under the deck and in the basement, but getting them back to the front and onto the street was an impossibility. I ruled out trying to get a car or truck down into the yard, fearing damage to the vehicle and/or landscape.

I decided instead to try to find a small tractor, something small enough to leave in a corner of the garage but large and heavy enough to haul 700 to 800 pounds up a 20" grade. So I ventured into an entirely new world of tractor and implement dealers, farm and agricultural publications, and farmers. I was very quickly advised that I needed a class of machine called a "garden tractor" as opposed to a "riding lawn mower" or even a "lawn trac" gear. A garden tractor is larger than a lawn and able to push or pull implements used for gardening. Typically they also have mowing decks suspended between the front and rear axles.

I didn't need any grass cutting capability, and I wanted to keep the investment to a minimum since the machine's sole purpose would be to pull boats. I soon learned that during the 1950's, 60's and 70's, several American manufacturers were producing garden tractors: John Deere, Wheelhorse by Toro, and Cub Cadet by International Harvester, to name a few. I looked at models by each manufacturer, some at least 30 years old, and I had as much fun doing so as I have looking a boats.

A consideration was the type of transmission, straight gear or hydraulic (fluid drive). For simplicity's sake, I favored the straight gear. As I looked at more machines, I began to gravitate toward the older Cub Cadet tractors. Most of these machines had a shaft drive from the engine to the differential with a large dry plate clutch. Many of the other machines I saw had drive trains that were at least partially belt-driven, which appeared convoluted and complex.

Most of the Cub Cadets were powered by large single or twin cylinder Kohler engines, all cast iron. Through an ad in one of the agricultural weeklies, I finally found an old Cub Cadet with a tremendous single cylinder Kohler and shaft drive to a massive cast iron differential through a 3 forward and 1 reverse gear transmission. The icing on the cake were the cast iron wheel weights attached to each rear wheel. Because the mowing deck was worn out, the price was right at $400.

After removing the mowing deck, replacing the battery, rebuilding the carburetor with a $7 rebuild kit, and fitting a 1-7/8 hitch ball, I have a machine that I believe would easily and safely haul a boat and trailer weighing twice what either of my rigs weigh. It's also handy for pulling out unwanted shrubs and tree stumps, and it's just tun to have and to use.


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February 15, 1999 Issue


More On Rational Trailering

We would get a stock adjustable and swiveling trailer jack, then cut that wimpy, good fer nothin' plastic caster off, bolt-on instead a nice stock 5001b pneu-matic industrial swiveling caster setup with a wheel of at least 10" overall diameter. They are no more corrosion prone than much of so called trailer hardware. With the trailer tongue supported by this meaty retractable wheel you can move the now honestly three wheeled trailer both in and out of storage spots too tight for both trailer and tractor and more importantly down and up the launching ramp connected to the tow-vehicle only with a wire or a rope. Then you attach an electric winch to the tow vehicle, either temporarily to the hitch assembly with shackles, chain and stout jumper cables, or permanently bolted almost in-line with, and straight onto, the hitch assembly and wire it up with oversized cables.

Assuming the winch permanently attached when you arrive at the ramp still on level ground, you get out and disconnect the safety chains and connect the cable's hook to the trailer. Then you back the rig towards the ramp to line up trailer and tow vehicle for launching. With tractor secured with brakes and gear lock, get out again to lower the third wheel until you can lift the trailer tongue off the hitch ball, with the trailer moving down the ramp a few inches until the cable takes up the strain, using chocks and varying cable length you could avoid that jerking.

Then we would start the tractor, sit on the brakes, and push the remote winch switch to pay out line and let the whole rig roll down the ramp, gravity-powered and usually straight due to the cable's centering pull; a second person could just guide it down in case the ramp has too much topography for straight descent. Eventually the boat would begin to float and you'd stop the winch, secure the tractor and run down to get the boat off the trailer and tied to something secure. Winch powered retrieval of the empty trailer would have no surprises and hitched to the tractor again both would be moved out of the traffic pattern.

This whole procedure should take just minutes, could be pursued calmly and methodically, and thus should be much less nerve wracking than the usual launching ramp antics, since you are never at risk of getting your drive wheels wet or worse flooding the ashtray up front. One can only speculate how many rear bumpers rear quarter panels, rear axles and brake assemblies, have been ruined by trailer boating along the seashore because owners insist on the regular brine bath treatment. But even in freshwater locations some cars get the full body dip on a slimy ramp, no doubt great fun for others when that video clip runs on national Funny Home Video Revue!



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