Separation Anxiety

Posted: February 1, 2014

If you need to get your boat off the trailer for some work, here’s one way.

By: Photos and Story by Capt. Wilson J. Sheppard

Break-ups are always hard, but it is time for my boat and trailer to part ways — at least, for the time being. I am planning to apply bottom paint to the hull and perform some maintenance on the trailer.

It is possible to work on the dynamic duo without separating them. Searching online will give you many good and bad ideas (see sidebar) about adjusting the bunks, using car jacks, building stuff and many other ways to avoid removing the boat from the trailer. If that suits your fancy, then so be it. My 16-foot Duffield and I, however, are going sans trailer. I hope it won’t be a bad breakup, because the boat could end up on my garage floor. And I will definitely be in the doghouse!

Before you initiate the separation, remember: Boats are heavy. Respect their weight and the damage they can cause. Like most of us, boats can afford to lose a few pounds. That is especially important for this project, so be sure to remove as much equipment and gear as possible to lighten the load. And don’t forget about tankage.

Assuming that water and fuel weigh about 8 pounds per gallon, you should have very low or empty tanks (fuel, water, holding). Aside from the weight issue, you do not want your boat to become unstable because liquids are sloshing around in the tanks.

Get a Support System

Before constructing anything to support your boat, you need to consider its weight, size and hull shape. If you aren’t sure about these specs, figure them out before continuing this project. Do your homework to avoid any injury and/or costly damage resulting from building a system that is not strong and stable enough to support your boat.

For my soon-to-be-single boat, I decided to use a PWC stand to support the stern. The stand has a heavy-duty metal frame supporting two 4-foot bunks, which are made from 2-by-4s and are covered with old carpet. The top of the bunks measures 2 feet from the ground.

To support the bow, I planned to use a large wooden block that I previously built for various purposes in my garage. I made the block 1 foot tall using crisscrossed rows of 2-by-4 slats. Each row had three slats. I determined that I needed 22 slats to build it up to 2 feet to match the height of the PWC stand and keep the boat level.

I bought three 2-by-4-by-10 pieces of wood and cut them into 16-inch sections to match the existing wood slats (picture 1). I secured each slat with 3-inch screws (picture 2). On the top row of the wooden block, I screwed the last slat into the middle slat of the previous row. I secured a rolled piece of thick foam to the top-most slat to cradle and protect the keel.

You can modify my setup to fit your needs. For example, if you have two heavy-duty PWC stands, you could possibly remove their bunks and join them with longer 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 pieces. The joined stands could then support the boat along the keel. Or, you could build larger wooden blocks with thicker wood to support your boat. Also, your system does not need to be as tall as mine.

Whatever setup you use, be sure it will support your boat!

Bottoms Up

Remember my warning about boats being heavy and dangerous? Be extra careful when removing the boat from the trailer and when working around the supported boat.

To transfer the boat from the trailer onto my support system, I positioned the PWC stand perpendicular to the stern of the boat. I lowered the trailer jack all the way down, which raised the rear of the trailer and the boat’s stern.

I braced a scissor-style car jack between the bow-stop support beam and the hull. As I slowly expanded it, the boat slid aft. When the transom touched the PWC stand, I used a jack to lift it onto the closest bunk on the stand. Then I continued using the scissor jack to slide the boat aft until it extended a few inches past the second bunk (picture 3).

Next, I used a jack to lift the rest of the boat off the trailer. All that stood between the boat and freedom was the trailer’s axle and cross-members. I placed the wooden block forward of amidships to support the boat while I played a game of switcheroo. It took a few rounds of raising the bow, rolling the trailer forward, repositioning the wooden block, lowering the jack, and rolling the trailer forward before the two were separated. Afterward, I made one last adjustment to move the block forward to its final position (picture 4).

After checking the stability of the boat and admiring my work, I figured it was 5 o’clock somewhere and acted accordingly. Or, maybe I was just acting like a typical guy after a separation.

captcha 7684d8394aad480b8717bd2f4bdb19ed