Yesterday was quite possibly one of the most stressful days I’ve ever had. I waited around for Matt to get done with work, then he, his buddy Bill, and I all packed on up to head out to Arena.
First, I should cover Matt’s plan (he even made sketches and a Power Point presentation on his iPad). This was the boat trailer.
Now, absent a crane or a boom of any kind to provide lift from above (that would be too easy), and since attempting to pull to boat forward and up onto the last trailer bent it very badly, we had to work with jacks and blocks from beneath the boat. You can see the beams of the trailer are nice and widely spaced. Matt’s idea was to get the boat high enough off the ground to just clear the trailer and bunks. Then, once jacked high enough, we would scootch the trailer under the boat, alternately moving blocks and jacks from behind the beams of the trailer to between or in front of the beams, as we backed the trailer underneath the boat.
We arrived in Arena and immediately went to work. Bill had to leave to make an appointment by 6, so while he was there, I made sure they were keeping the boat level as they jacked it up. It had to be about 18 inches off the ground.
Making sure the boat was being lifted evenly was tough. The ground wasn’t level here, and we only had the farm jacks. After Bill left, it was on me and Matt to get the thing up. We had a number of scares where the jacks weren’t straight up and down, and the boat shifted. We made sure the tires of the trailer were blocked off, that we kept building up the blocks on the stern, and just did everything we could, safety-wise. The whole process wreaked havoc on my nerves. My heart rate was elevated for the entire three and a half hours we worked on this. Eventually, we got it high enough to begin scootching the trailer under the boat. Click to enlarge the photos.
This wasn’t without mishaps, though. At one point, tired, wet, and cold, we pushed the trailer back and forgot to let it off the farm jacks and onto blocks. The bunks rubbed on the bottom of the boat and shifted it just enough to knock down the jacks, causing the entire apparatus to shift. A farm jack was sandwiched between the boat and the blocks, making a small bite in the hull (luckily not a full puncture). It all took longer than expected, but overall, this plan worked much better than anything we had tried so far. Getting the trailer all the way under the boat was maybe a third of the job.
When we bought this trailer, the previous owner was very proud of how heavy-duty it was. And it looks like a good, strong trailer. The beams are solid, the welds are good. He said it was rated for 3800 pounds, and that he’d hauled a 23 foot boat on it. Sweet, we thought. This one will stand up way better than the first one we brought up from Illinois.
As we got the boat onto the trailer, everything looked fine. Sure, a lot of boat hung off the end, but this is a heavy-duty trailer, right? It can totally handle it. Well, we knocked out the last block supporting the boat’s weight. The suspension just sagged. At this point, I developed a deep, cold pit in my stomach.
The fenders were nearly resting on the tires. The tires were riding as if the air pressure was at about half. The back end of the boat was maybe 7 inches off the ground. To top it off, the boat was on there just crooked. At this point, I was too stressed out about our new predicament to take many pictures. We resolved to first take it to the nearby launch on the Wisconsin river, intending to float her while still connected to the trailer, straighten her out, and get on our way home. It was basically dark, and we’d knocked the tail lights and turn signal lights off the trailer getting the boat on. Mercifully, the marker lights still work.
We get to the launch. The river is flooded, and the current is up. Nothing for it, so we put her in anyway. The current started to sweep the boat away, and when Matt put the truck in park to help me grab it, the truck rolled back slightly, putting the exhaust just below the water level. The engine started to sputter. We had to back it in two more times to finish straightening it. It also was so heavy it was pulling out the winch. We got out some extra ratchet straps, and strapped the nose ring of the boat to the winch tower. On top of that, it had no bung. We found out because it took on water, and the trailer was groaning as we pulled it out of the water. We let it drain, and began to trundle home.
From Arena, Wisconsin to our house on the east end of Madison, it’s about 37 miles, give or take. We did maybe 45 miles per hour the whole way. We had to pass through 4 towns. In Mazomanie, Black Earth, and Cross Plains, we saw county sheriffs sitting, speed gunning people. Miraculously, not a single one of them pulled out after us. There were some gnarly potholes on the way, and every passing vehicle caused the badly unbalanced trailer to sway. We had a parade of cars a mile long behind us, even at 9pm. We also had to go through Middleton, the town immediately to the west of Madison. Incredibly, still no police.
No one was willing to pass us. They just turned off and took different routes. My contacts dried out, as my eyes were glued to the passenger side rear view. We got out of Middleton with no mishaps, despite taking the two main roads in town. We headed out of Middleton to cut around the north end of Madison and Lake Mendota. It’s hilly. Somehow, we still haven’t had a blow out. We enter town again in one of the rougher areas, where there are usually a lot of cop cars. We see one sitting at an intersection. Still, no lights or sirens. At this point, we’re only a mile or two from the house. We forge ahead. The pothole that broke the axle of our first boat trailer is approaching. We slow down to a crawl, and get around the block to our house. Matt’s buddy Bill is waiting with his Silverado. We play Musical Vehicles with the car and the camper, and get the boat pushed all the way back next to the house. It’s a close fit, to say the least.
Now, the work begins on the boat itself. This project is going to be a long haul.