Springtime

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Because I’ve spent what we’ve had of spring fretting about my garden, mishandling my seedlings, and grousing about my soil, a piece of news slipped under the radar.

We bought another boat.

If you’ve been following this space, you know we already had enough boats to make a raft of armada jokes possible, so you’re probably questioning our boat-buying strategy.

The newest addition to the fleet

Well, it’s like this. We made a mistake. The 14-foot Carolina Skiff we bought last fall just isn’t big enough to do what we need done on the oyster grant, so we bought a replacement – a 17-foot Carolina Skiff.

I use the term “replacement” loosely, since we still have the J14. It is, however, officially for sale, so if you know anyone who needs a wicked fast 14-foot flat-bottom skiff with a 25-horse four-stroke Honda outboard, you know who to call.

The 17-foot version is much larger. It’s not just three feet longer – it’s also much deeper and wider, and it can probably fit something like three times the amount of equipment. Its previous owner — a commercial fisherman – equipped it with a scallop table (a kind of platform that goes from gunwale to gunwale near the stern) and a big pole you can attach a dredge to.

The boat isn’t just bigger, it’s cleaner. We repowered it with a brand-spanking-new 50-horse Evinrude E-Tec, a super-efficient motor with almost zero emissions. And those of you with any boating experience might not credence this, but when you turn the key in the starter, the engine just starts and quietly goes about its business. You don’t have to do the Please Start Dance, you don’t have to sacrifice a goat to Rev, God of Engines. The E-Tec doesn’t cough or sputter, it doesn’t roar and then conk out, it doesn’t give you any lip at all. It starts, and it runs. Hallelujah.

Although we’d had the boat out once or twice since we got the engine, yesterday was its inaugural working trip, schlepping trays out to the flats.

We’d planned to do it the day before. We’d loaded it up with the trays in the driveway, and hooked it to the truck. Then, as we were moving it, we heard a nasty cracking sound, and the left side of the boat dropped a few inches.

It was the leaf spring. It sprung.

Since it was almost two years ago that the same thing happened on the boat trailer under our bigger boat, you probably aren’t aware of the particular antipathy I bear leaf springs.

One of the unfortunate aspects of boat ownership is that, if you’re going to have a boat, you have to have a boat trailer, and if you have a boat trailer you have to have leaf springs. But the shortcomings of boat trailers aren’t limited to their suspension system. Pretty much everything about them sucks. They’re not standard sizes, so it’s hard to get the right parts. And you need parts often, because the constant dips in salt water corrode absolutely everything. Boat trailer parts are heavy, rusty, and sharp, and Kevin’s here to tell you that it’s impossible to do even the most minor repair without bleeding.

What makes fixing a boat trailer most difficult, though, is the presence of the boat on it. Your chances of fixing the trailer without incurring bodily harm is maximized if you can get the boat off of it.

The best way to do this is to put the boat in the water. But the Catch-22 of boat trailer repair is that, just when you need to get your boat off your trailer, you can’t get to the water because your trailer’s broken. That’s when you resort to the old tree trick, where you tie the back of the boat to a tree and slowly pull the trailer out from under it, inserting blocks under the boat as you go.

The first time Kevin tried this trick, it was with the J14, and he tied it to that little strip between our two garage doors. I drove the truck and pulled the trailer out, listening for cracking sound that would preface the collapse of the garage.

That didn’t happen, but this time, with a heavier boat, Kevin wasn’t going to take any chances; he used a tree. The trailer slid out without a hitch, and we were ready to go.

Between the last fixing of a trailer and this fixing of a trailer, Kevin picked up an important piece of advice from Billy, who, with his sister Cindy, runs Anchor Outboard. That’s where we get our boat work done, and we’ve come to rely on Cindy and Billy for guidance, inside information, and parts.

When Kevin went in to buy the leaf springs, Billy said, “I’ve got one tip for you that’ll make working on trailers much, much easier.”

Kevin had done enough work on trailers that he doubted one tip could change everything, but he was all ears.

“Turn the trailer upside down,” Billy told him.

Holy cow. That changes everything. When you turn the trailer upside down, the leaf springs are exposed and accessible, and the world is a better place. It took most of the day, but Kevin got the leaf springs changed, and did a few other trailer-repair jobs while he was at it.

The trailer took the boat to the ramp, put it in, pulled it out, and took it home again without incident, and we’re hoping that the rest of spring passes with no more sprunging. We’ve got work to do.

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Comments

  1. Kim Graves says:

    Good tip! But I have a silly question. How do you get the boat back on the trailer? I assume it’s lower than it needs to be after being pulled off. Do you jack it up? So interesting that you’ve become a fisherman.

  2. I’m glad to hear you’re getting your gear in good shape for my impending visit in early June. ;-)

  3. Kim — Silly question? Hardly — if you don’t answer it, you have a boat on your driveway for the rest of your life. We backed the trailer up to the boat and tipped it up so the rear of the trailer slipped under the bow. Then we attached the trailer winch to the boat and winched the trailer back under the boat (you keep the boat tied to the tree so the trailer moves and the boat doesn’t). After the boat’s about half on, the trailer levels out and you crank it the rest of the way.

    Tovar — We are SO taking you fishing!

  4. Good to know that schlepping can be done on water. All this time I thought it was only a land-based form of locomotion.

    Good luck selling the little boat. Littler boat, I mean.

  5. Dave Proulx says:

    You can never have too many boats…….

  6. If I ever find myself in need of a boat, I’m going ask your advice first.

    The leaf springs on our work truck go every summer, because we grossly overload the flatbed. Our own fault. We had heavier duty leaf springs fitted this time and so far so good.

    God bless the new boat and all who sail in her.