by Churchouse Boats
THOUGHTS ON A TRAILER-SAILOR
A trailer-sailor is a compromise boat. Whether it succeeds is a matter of finding the compromises that are correct for you.
I firmly believe that more people abandon the concept through traumas with the launch & recovery & the journey home than any aspect of the boat once on the water.
The launch & recovery operations must be achievable by one person using only whatever other facilities are regularly & reliably available. These other facilities may comprise of other people, a tractor, a crane or whatever. If you are always going to have them, then a large boat on an average trailer requiring complicated procedures will be a sustainable proposition. On the other hand, unless you can handle the operations on your own, the suggestion of going sailing will rapidly deteriorate from an opportunity to be grasped without further consideration to one that will be challenged & dismissed in a negative manner.
If you are on your own, you need to maximise the contribution from your car & trailer so that you are achieving the objective by technique & not relying on brute strength. Choose slipways where it is possible to launch with the trailer still attached to the car. This will inject power & stability to the operations. For manoeuvring, learn to back car & trailer confidently. It really isn’t difficult. It just requires a bit of practice & experience. Strange as it may seem, the longer the load, the easier it is to succeed with. It is short trailers that get out of line most quickly.
Think carefully about the size of boat you will be able to consistently manage in launch/recovery & how big it needs to be in use. It may be tempting to buy a big boat of the floating-caravan category. This will be manageable on a good day but how will you cope on a bad one? With their deep topsides, they can be a bit like manoeuvring an elephant – fine if the elephant is willing, painful if it steps on you! Think of the windage of your floating caravan, its sheer weight & the height of the gunwhales for grasping, pushing & pulling.
Look down the other end of the kaleidoscope. How small a boat will meet your needs? It amuses me how many people at boat shows climb into a small cabin boat & immediately disappear into the cabin to peer around. In reality, on a small boat, 90% of waking hours are spent in the cockpit. Living is al-fresco. The cabin is for sleeping & storage & a cockpit tent, quickly erected, broadens the practicality.
Think a bit more deeply about the style of your sailing. Do you actually need a cabin? For over-nighting, probably – although a tent on an open boat or beach can be great fun.
For day-sailing, it is a 50/50 decision. You may like the thought of some shelter/dry storage/cooking & toilet facilities. On the other hand, you may decide that you are only doing this for fun & if the weather is bad, it isn’t fun so you don’t go. A big open boat has many attractions as a family boat but is equally ‘dinghy’ for running up the beach to find ice creams or build sand castles.
The smaller the boat that meets your needs, the easier it will be to handle & the more you are likely to use it.
Look very carefully at the rigging of the boat. How long is it going to take you to rig/de-rig it? Full gaff cutter rigs do look good on the water & tweaky racing rigs do perform well but how much of your sailing day do you want to spend on setting it up? To my mind, if it is more than 30 minutes, then you are looking at a trailable boat rather than a trailer sailor. Keep it simple & keep it quick. Is everything reduced down to be handled comfortably by one person? Do all the spars stow within the length of the boat?
It is also important to give due consideration to the trailer. It is an important part of the package & needs to be properly specified, set up & maintained. The more frequently it is immersed, the more rapid will be its deterioration & disappointment. I groan when I see trailers with docking arms. The only reason they are fitted is to align the boat when the trailer is so deep in murky water that it cannot be seen! Has the car followed it in? Beware of wader-man with a tin of spinach in his back pocket!
Having come to the correct conclusion that a Drascombe is the right boat to choose, there are three types of trailer legitimately in use under them:
¨ A traditional fixed spine trailer which has a line of keel rollers along the spine & some bunks or rollers to support the bilges when towing.
¨ The same thing but with a break-back, where the spine is pivoted to allow the line of keel rollers to be raised at the front & dropped at the back whilst still attached to the tow vehicle. Most often found under the larger Drascombes.
¨ The swinging cradle trailer. This has a line of keel rollers & some bilge rollers, all in use when in towing mode, but with a cradle pivoted across the aft end of the trailer which carries sets of rollers that individually articulate. This cradle assists in launch & recovery. It is so useful that even the larger Drascombes may be launched & recovered single handed 99% of the time. These have been pretty well universal under Drascombes since 2000 & are being retro-fitted to many older boats.
For more information on launch & recovery techniques, look at our Trailers page:
The journey home will give you other aspects to consider. Just how heavy a load do you want to contend with? What is the effect of windage on stability? How does a high centre of gravity affect stability?
The Drascombe Lugger is perfectly happy behind a small family car. Even more important, the driver is perfectly happy too! The Drascombe Coaster is fine behind a 1.8 litre family car. Even the Drifter 22 does not require anything more than a big family car. Will you be happy having to buy a 4X4 & eating three Shredded Wheat for breakfast to go sailing?
Will you be thinking, “How soon can we go again?” or will it be “Oh, no, never again!” The recipe for happiness is to keep it simple, keep it light, keep it fun! Keep it DRASCOMBE !
The Sail that becomes a Way of Life!