From your descriptions of your boat recovery problems, it sounds like
you are both doing something wrong. I recover Dynamic Equilibrium
The amount of trailer bunk left exposed out of the water is the key:
Shallow slope on launch ramp, little or no cross wind/current, calm
Add 2" more exposed bunk for each condition:
steep launch ramp
cross wind >10 knots
cross current > 2 knots
Thus, a situation with all of the above conditions would call for
12 + 8=20" of exposed bunk.
If there are waves > 3', the recovery will be difficult at best.
Leave about 24" of bunk exposed. It helps to have a couple of
helpers with stern lines in this situation.
Note: Your boat & trailer may behave slightly different than mine,
but the concepts & conditions to look for will be the same.
Use the exposed trailer bunks as your target. Approach the trailer
at a slow walking speed, about 2 knots.
Note: This is faster than dead slow. You need a little momentum for
Note: This is no time to be timid!
Center the bow in between the exposed bunks. Your momentum will
carry you up onto the exposed bunks, slow you down, & the bow will
come to rest against the bow stop. If the stern of the boat wants to
drift sideways in either direction, then you didn't leave a sufficient
amount of trailer bunks exposed. Rather than try to play out a
bad situation, put the engine in reverse, back off the trailer,
adjust the trailer position, & try again.
Now, leave the engine idling in gear, lock the tiller in center
position, & disconnect the gas line from the engine. If there is a
strong cross wind/cross current, then turn the engine slightly so the
thrust offsets the wind/current. Quickly walk to the bow, step off
onto the trailer (here a welded-on platform might be nice), hook up
the bow eye to the trailer winch, & winch in the slack. The boat
will not have to be winched in very far. As waves tend to lift the
stern, the thrust from the motor will push the boat forward, "taking
up the slack". Keep your body pieces/parts out of the way of the boat
& winch during this operation. Eventually, the motor will use up all
the gas in the carburetor & stall. Lock the winch & install a
secondary restraining device. I have a piece of 1/2" rope that I use
as a secondary restraining device to hold the boat against the bow
roller if the winch should fail.
Now, get into your tow vehicle, pull the boat trailer up the launch
ramp, & drive immediately to the derigging area. If the boat is not
centered on the trailer, then push hard from either side at the
stern You will find that the boat can be rocked back on center.
If the boat is not all the way up on the trailer, then accelerate
your car up to about 10 MPH in a straight line & SLAM on the brakes.
After you are stopped, walk back to the boat & winch in the slack.
Repeat as necessary. These adjustments should be done as soon as you
get the boat up on level ground. Do not allow the hull & trailer
bunks to dry out or you will not be able to move the boat on the
trailer. With everything wet & slippery, these manuevers don't harm
I usually don't attempt to balance on the trailer tongue while I'm
winching in the boat. It's too easy to slip & fall. I suppose a
welded platform on the trailer tongue would be nice, but I still
think you'd get wet feet. I'm not in the water more than a couple
of minutes at most. I usually wear water shoes. My recovery
procedure doesn't take any longer than any other 22' boat & I'm
in & out faster than most, even single-handed.
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
Oct 30, 2000
Carol & Everybody Else Having Trouble With Boat Recovery:
The geometry between the trailer's bow stop & the bow eye on the boat
does indeed change as the boat is brought out of the water & the
stern of the boat stops floating & starts getting supported by the
trailer. This changing geometry is another reason to use a HD
secondary restraining device one the bow eye. My trailer winch uses
a steel cable. I have found it is difficult to get all the slack out
of the cable as it is wound onto the winch drum. As the boat is
pulled out of the water, this winch cable will come under a lot of
strain which will tend to pull any slack out, thus allowing the bow
to shift backwards up to several inches. A HD secondary restraining
device will prevent this & keep the trailer bow stop & the boat's bow
eye together as the trailer comes out of the water.
Another thing to check is whether you have your keel rollers adjusted
properly. The majority of the boat's weight needs to be resting on
the keel rollers & not on the trailer bunks. Try This Test:
With the boat centered fore/aft & side-to-side on the trailer & the
trailer sitting level on flat ground, try to move the keel rollers.
If you can budge them even slightly, then too much of the boat's
weight is resting on the bunks. If you can see any deformation in
the hull where it is resting on the bunks &/or if you have any
trouble opening & closing lockers & hatches in the cabin, this is
also diagnostic of this problem. The sliding cabinet doors under
the galley countertop are particularly sensitive to this problem.
If the boat is not centered on the trailer, then using hydraulic
jacks & blocks of wood, carefully move it around & get it centered.
With the boat centered on the trailer, loosen up the 4 bolts on each
keel roller & slide the keel roller assembly up until it is in contact
with the keel. Tighten up the 4 bolts. Mark the height of the keel
roller assemble on the trailer. Do this with all the keel rollers (my
trailer has 2 keel roller assemblies). Now put the boat in the
water. Go back to each keel roller, loosen up the 4 bolts, slide
each one up 3/4" relative to the marks you made earlier, & retighten
the 4 bolts. While you are working with the keel rollers & the
boat is not on the trailer, check to be sure the keel rollers turn
freely. If they don't turn freely, then grease the keel roller axles
or replace as required. Now try recovering the boat using the
procedure I described in my earlier post & see if it's not a whole
lot easier than before!
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
Nov 02, 2000
We have launched and retrieved boats all over the country and never met a Rhodes 22 I
could not pull out or launch with a Rhodes trailer - and imagination:
General rules: Bury trailer so front edge of bunks is just at water level. Always use
the extension tongue. Have the bow socket bar as far in (towards the car) as it goes.
Have the winch strap out far enough to be able to reach the boat bow eye with the boat
about 2 feet from its final trailering position and the winch ratchet set in the in
direction. Lower the centerboard. motor, sail or walk and then winch the boat all the
way to the retracted socket on the trailer. This space will automatically open when boat
and trailer become parallel.
IF the ramp is too short but has no drop off at its end and the ground beyond the
ramp is acceptably solid, disconnect the trailer from the car so the car's rear
wheels do not have to go in water and use a stout line from trailer ball to trailer
bow post. Keep everyone away when pulling trailer since a breaking rope can be deadly.
IF ramp is usable but low water does not allow boat to come far enough forward onto
trailer, you have to decide whether the boat can come on trailer far enough so that
the trailer will not be coming out with negative tongue weight. With boat out of water
and on trailer but now too far aft, there are three ways we have moved boat into forward
If you are in a marginal condition in getting a floating boat far enough along the
trailer bunks and cannot move trailer further down an ending ramp, you could invest
in a much heavier trailer winch and use the greater mechanical advantage to move the
semi free floating boat to the trailer bow socket.
- a) On a down sloping road, apply breaks making sure there are no tailgators in back.
Boat slides easily forward on wet bunks.
- b) Lower forward jack (and, if necessary, jack up back of trailer) so bow is down
and winch boat forward with trailer winch.
- c) Placed a spare tire against a tree and back boat into the tree - it works or the
tree falls over.
IF you are using a ramp that has a drop-off at its end, wait for high tide. The 15"
trailer wheels can jump up onto a ramp that is maybe 6" thick but if the drop-off is
deep enough the cross member of the trailer frame will hit it before the wheels and
nothing will get that trailer back on the ramp short of going into the water and
lifting it back on or running a line under the frame and lifting from parallel
All else failing, I like MM's floating trailer idea or come sail the tideless and
steady as she goes (I have not seen more than a 2' water level variance in 13 years)
29 Oct 2001