July 19, 2006
Boating News: Safe Trailering Techniques
By Rich Smidt
A recent press release from BoatU.S. indicated that vessel owners should be aware that their trailering club has five great tips to help prevent trailer owners from ending up as a roadside statistic. The following is an exact quote from their website:
1.) Make sure your trailer tires were made for trailering. An "ST" designation on the sidewall indicates the appropriate designation for boat trailers. These tires have stronger sidewalls than passenger ones and light trucks.
2.) Inflation is the most basic tire maintenance issue. Tires should be inflated while cold; before the trip and not during. Buy a spare, but be sure to bring a tire and rim combo when shopping for the spare, as all are not alike. Be sure the jack can handle the trailer.
3.) A tire's worst enemy is dry rot which is caused by the sun's SUV rays. If you store your boat and trailer outside in the winter, take off those tires and bring them indoors. If that is not possible, get specially-treated warmer covers.
Moisture can also doom a tire, especially if a trailer sits idle for any long duration on grassy, damp ground. Parking on plywood may also be helpful. If on concrete, be sure that the water drains freely away from the trailer, especially after heavy rainstorms.
Lastly, ensure that you are cognizant of your boat and trailer's combined weight. Overloading can result in premature wear and dangerous blowouts.
Can you guess what were the most common calls for roadside assistance during the last two seasons? You're correct if you said flat tires. Close to half of all calls came in for this reason, while bearing and axle problems made up the next 40 %.
Since there have been numerous requests for additional information about hurricane season, BoatU.S. has recently addressed the issue with some questions you should be asking about the safety of your marina.
When the 1996 hurricane off the Carolina coast, now known as Fran, hit the Outer Banks, the Masonboro Marina had deemed itself safe from hurricane 3 storms. Fran blew all night and the end result was boats stacked awkwardly on top of each other while some sunk and many others disappeared. Shocked marina owners could hardly believe their eyes.
So how should you actually evaluate your own marina in regards to safety? How close are the low lying areas and in what condition are its seawalls? How vulnerable is it to a storm surge?
According to records kept by BoatU.S., a study by MIT after hurricane Gloria found that boats stored ashore were far less likely to have been wrecked than boats in the water. I have personal memories of that hurricane, with roads blocked by fallen trees in communities off the Great South Bay while I helped my parents to secure our boat, which we kept in the water. A ton of luck and numerous requests for assistance resulted in a boat that did not sink. Had we thought better of it, we would have had it pulled and placed on land.
Be sure that if you plan to leave your vessel at a floating dock, you've measured the height of the pilings and calculated in the storm surge. If your dock is fixed, you have a much bigger problem. Lines too short will stress and break while too much slack will let your boat slam itself into the pilings as soon as the storm comes ashore.
Longer lines, more distant pilings and even a larger slip might allow that boat to rise without increasing the risk of it being destroyed against the pilings. Probably the best bet is to hole it somewhere where it is safe or better yet, have it taken out of the water.
That dreaded hurricane season has already made itself known along our shores. Get ready and be prepared. Better safe than sorry, right?