Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Retrieving an Etchells Sailboat up a boat ramp with a boat trailer

Steps to prepare the the trailer to retrieve the International Etchells "Black Magic" from the water:
(1) Check trailer, pad positions, launch wheel, launch rope (wire, cable, or strap if used), lug nuts, lug nut wrench, chocks, boat restraining lines, paddle, boat hook, boat motor if used.
(2) Bring boat trailer to boat ramp and park it just above the water's edge.
(3) Disconnect electrical connection between truck and trailer.
(4) Ensure that on-boat crew doesn't have truck keys.
(5) Place chocks slightly behind trailer wheels.
(6) Tie launch rope between trailer frame and truck frame. Make some extra loops around the frames to prevent over-tightening of the knots when the rope has to pull the boat and trailer.
(7) Jack front end of the trailer up to release the trailer hitch from the hitch ball on the truck; allow the trailer to rock slightly backward (two or three inches, perhaps) to clear the trailer hitch from the ball.
(8) Pass a couple of loops of line from the truck frame end around the bumper hitch.
(9) Remove the safety chains.
(10) Remove the launch wheel from the storage position and attach it to the launching hub. Lower the front end of the trailer as needed to bring the launch tire into contact with the ground and tighten the lug nuts to secure the launch wheel to the launch hub. Note: Some trailers use a drop-down launching wheel, which is typically freed by removing a pin that secures it to the trailer frame for storage, then inserting the pin through a lower hole when the launch wheel is in the launch position.
(11) Raise the trailer jack and stow it out of the way. Check to ensure that the launch wheel is in position and that the safety chains and electrical connection are disconnected. Tuck chains and the electrical cable out of the way.
(12) Drive the truck (launch vehicle) forward up the ramp to take up tension on the launch rope, then continue to drive forward slightly (one to three feet) to free the chocks.
(13) Remove the chocks from behind the trailer tires and place them to one side or in the launch vehicle.
(14) Drop the trailer into the water to the appropriate depth.
(15) Steer the boat onto the trailer, using the ladders or other guide marks to center the trailer laterally and longitudinally (side to side and fore n aft).
(16) Attach lines from the stern ring of the boat to the side ladders on the trailer. Place them so that, after the lines stretch under load, the forward bulkhead of the boat will be over the bulkhead support bunk on the trailer.
(17) Check to ensure that the trailer pads are properly positioned under the boat. Signal the truck driver to drive the boat and trailer slightly up the ramp if needed to check pad position.
(18) Smoothly drive the truck up the ramp to bring the boat and trailer out of the water.
(19) Place chocks behind the trailer tires when the boat and trailer leave the water.

Trailer ready for attachment of the third/launch wheel to the forward hub.

The trailer is ready to be dropped down the ramp, with the truck beginning to drive forward. After the rope becomes taut, the trailer will be brought a short distance (a few inches to a couple of feet) further up the ramp so that the chocks can be removed from behind the trailer wheels. Then the trailer will be dropped into the water...

The trailer begins to roll down the ramp into the water. The length of launch rope needed depends upon the angle (steepness) of the boat ramp; 70 to 100 feet (24 to 30m) is typically sufficient.

The trailer has been dropped to almost the proper depth for retrieving the Etchells "Black Magic", which lies behind the trailer at the Elephant Butte Lake state park courtesy dock. Beyond is the Marina del Sur. The trailer will be allowed to back down so that it's about 6 to 9 inches (0.25 m) deeper in the water than it is in this picture.


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