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Well, the trailer seemed awful excited around Thanksgiving as plans began to shape up for a trip with the boat out to the Bay to chase SML’s salty striper cousins. We loaded the boat onto the trailer while the water was up a bit (thanks to the Christmas Boat Parade) and parked her at a friends house to stay for a week or two until the journey towards the coast. Everything went well with the loading, even though it was only the second time I had ever loaded the boat onto the trailer myself (and maybe only the third or forth time it had ever been on the trailer period).
Before heading to the Bay we did take a few precautions. We loaded a spare tire in the truck, made sure we had a jack & lug wrench, purchased a 2 gallon pump-up sprayer and mixed up some Salt Away to spray the trailer down after each dip in the saltwater. As little as the trailer had been used / as young as it was, we used we felt confident about the bearings not needing repacking or such, so off we went - Bay Bound!
Stopping around Richmond for gas I checked the bearings and tires - nice and cool - no concerns. Things were going well. We arrived safely at Kiptopeake early the next morning and then plunged the boat in the salty brine for the first time ever shortly after day break that morning at the Cape Charles public ramp. Off came the boat and off we went in chase of monster, salty stripers. We had a slow day but finally boated a couple of high 20 lber stripers in the late afternoon before heading back to the ramp to call it a day.
That’s when class was called into session.
We backed the trailer down to wet the bunks and pulled it back out to what looked like the right depth. Powered the boat up onto the trailer and as far as the Yamaha 250 would push it up the bunks. The boat stopped maybe 8” or so short of the roller and did not want to ride up any further - or at least not any further than I felt comfortable trimming down the motor on the unknown ramp to do. But no worries - 8” - that’s what the winch is for - right? My friend with me proceeded to work the winch when “POW” - the strap broke right beside his head. I had noticed the top of the strap was a little faded from the sun - didn’t think it could have been weathered enough to matter, but when it popped it certainly came front of mind.
While looking at options, which mainly consisted of disconnecting the boat and taking the truck down the road in search of a new strap, a local Cape Charles police officer stopped and offered a ride to a local hardware store so we did not have to disconnect the trailer and leave it at the ramp. The hardware store did not have a strap, but had some ratcheting tie-downs, which I purchased with the intention of at least strapping the boat to the trailer to get us on down the road a little to find a proper strap.
The near-by tackle & bait shop also did not have a strap, and it was late enough in the day on a Friday that no other stores on the Southern Shore were open (and no Wal-Mart in sight) - so I had to purchase a $35 winch to get the $10 replacement strap. It was now that we realized that we did not pack a few other critical items - like an adjustable wrench & socket set, so we headed to the trusty Dollar General and purchase two of China’s finest adjustable wrenches for something like $2.35 each - high quality tools to say the least. Out in the parking lot we proceeded to perform a Strap-lectomy. No biggie - done in short order. Time to crank the boat up and go get some sleep. Cranking away and pop, pop, pop.... Huh? Was the winch skipping gears? No..... Wait a minute - the winch stand is sliding backwards towards the boat - isn’t it supposed to work the other way around? Fortunately, one of the sockets on the lug wrench fit the bolts on the winch stand and we found the nuts were a little loose. We tightened those down and figured we would be on our way. Crank, crank, crank...... POP - POW!
Fortunately, things turned out OK for us and I learned a few simple, obvious, newbie trailering lessons that I will not soon forget. These were not serious lessons - certainly not like the ones you learn when you look back and see one wheel on your single-axel trailer passing you on the highway, but good lessons none the less. Next time I make a long trailering trip I will be a little more prepared for the next set of gremlins that will crop up - I’ll have a spare hub with fresh bearings / grease. I’ll have the spare tire and make sure it is inflated properly. I will have a jack. I will have the pump-up sprayer with Salt Away. I will have a full set of wrenches & socket set for ALL the bolts on the trailer (and they will have been used to tighten all the bolts before leaving home. I will have a spare strap (and, I have since learned, I will know a knot to use so that I can just cut the existing strap back and tie it to get by). Oh, and I will have a $1.99 bottle of Dawn dishwashing soap.