Kevin’s big tow

Yesterday we took the new boat for her inaugural sea trial. She did beautifully, which was to be expected since she’s a lovely boat and her previous owner maintained her meticulously. The big test wasn’t when the boat was in the water. It was getting her to the water, into the water, out of the water, and home from the water.

We chose our boat because it is the biggest boat you can comfortably tow, and that’s using ‘comfortably’ loosely. Lots of people – even tough guys – look at our boat and want nothing to do with towing it. I definitely look at our boat and want nothing to do with towing it. Kevin, though, was born to tow.

Kevin yearns for anything involving heavy equipment or danger, and towing qualifies on both counts. Just to make it more fun, the trailer on our boat is a little long in the tooth.

I know you see a story coming, particularly since those of you who visit frequently know we have towing-disaster experience. But, just this once, I’m going to have to disappoint you. It went as smoothly as it possibly could have.

Partly, that’s because, to go with the boat, Kevin bought a Ford F250 Super Duty pick-up with a 6.4-liter diesel engine and 650 foot-pounds of torque. If you are unfamiliar with trucks, or torque, I can assure you that ours is a mean, diesel-guzzling, towing machine, and our boat, which probably weighs about 4000 pounds, is well within its capacity.

And partly, it’s because Kevin’s just really, really good at towing things.

If you’ve never towed anything, it’s hard to imagine what could be difficult. If you’ve towed things, you know that many things are difficult, but none quite so difficult as backing up.

In order to make your trailer go in one direction when you’re backing up, you have to make your truck go in the other direction. Although this a bedrock principle of physics, it is absolutely counter-intuitive. Unless you are really, really good at towing things, you will make your trailer go in the wrong direction on a regular basis. I certainly do.

Then there’s the issue of visibility. When all you can see in the rear-view mirror is the bow of your giant boat, you are completely dependent on your side-view mirrors. There are special side-view mirrors (“towing mirrors,” they’re called, helpfully) that stick out farther than normal and have both normal mirrors and special fun-house mirrors that give you the fish-eye view of what’s behind you.  We have those.

Then there’s the issue of ramps. For starters, a boat ramp is often narrow. The bigger your boat, the less wiggle room you have. Just to make it harder, there are usually other people waiting to put boats in or take boats out, and they want you to work fast.

Even if there aren’t other boats waiting, there are often spectators. Rampies, I call them. They’re the guys (always guys) who just stand around waiting for you to fuck up.

Since this was our first time launching the boat, Kevin recruited our friend Bob to come with us. Bob has vast experience with boats, and owns a boat the same size as ours. We figured he’d come in handy.

And so he did. There are tricks to getting boats off trailers, and we had to employ one or two. But we got it off in perfectly respectable time. The one boat waiting put in right after us, and the rampies went home disappointed.

If I had to pick two guys to get a boat into the water, it would definitely be Kevin and Bob. If I had to pick two guys to figure out all the fancy-pants Raymarine electronics in that boat, well … let’s just say there was a lot of “what happens if you press that button?” I was tempted to try to decipher some of the blips myself, but I didn’t think I’d be any better at it, and I thought it was unlikely Raymarine would manufacture fancy-pants electronics with an ejector seat, so what was the worst that could happen?

The worst that could happen? I’ll tell you the worst that could happen. The worst that could happen would be that I would decide that, from here on in, I am done with open boats. Over the last few years, Kevin and I spent many hours on our trusty Eastern, and I had somehow internalized the idea that being cold and wet was an integral part of boating. I bought a whole wardrobe of foul-weather gear and always went out with more layers than a baklava.

Hah! If you have the right boat, you can go boating in your underwear!

It was about fifty degrees out, and relatively calm, and anyone who’s ever been out on the water on a day like that knows how raw it can feel. But I wasn’t cold for one single solitary second. I sat in the cabin with my feet up and had fun watching Kevin and Bob decipher the radar and the autopilot. I even had a beer. It was glorious.

The boat came out of the water as easily as she went in, and we took her home and hosed her down. (Those of you who participated in the boat-naming exercise should know that we are keeping Dream Catcher for now, only because we are too damn cheap to change it and, anyway, we couldn’t pick from the many excellent suggestions.) Now all we have to do is read the Raymarine manuals and wait for the fish.

It’s going to be a good season.

9 people are having a conversation about “Kevin’s big tow

  1. as part of our video work we do boat safety videos for a company that does the on line training to get your boating license. I remember the towing and putting the boat in the water chapters. Especially the warning to make sure your engine is working before you untie the boat and drift away. It’s at
    My husband is great at towing things too, must be one of those guy things. We have a trailer. He loves to put things in it and tow them to places.

  2. “If you’ve towed things, you know that many things are difficult, but none quite so difficult as backing up.” …. AMEN, Sister!

    We lived aboard our 40 foot sailboat for a decade & I can attest to much of your story. Spending the money to enclose our cockpit, not only gave us at least 1/3 more room, but we avoided being wet, having black-flies eat us alive, being able to sail when others weren’t able to, and (BEST of alll) sitting in the cockpit wearing shorts while everyone else in the Marina had to wear layers and layers of clothes!

    ps: I was never so happy in my life when we finally moved up from the Snipe a& it’s tiller steering (HORRID) to a “real” sailboat with a real steering wheel and never having to “trailer” or “launch” again!!!

  3. Man that’s a big honkin’ truck! And what a sweet boat. And why is Amanda buying a doggie life vest? Did she get her dog?!!!

    You have a big honkin’ truck….Amanda has a dog…..someday when I grow up I’m gonna have both. Darn it.

    When is Kevin going to convert the truck over to wood gas?

  4. I feel obliged to warn you of a danger, Tamar: As you may recall, my uncle Mark and I typically fish various Cape Cod bays from a canoe. If you let us onto that boat, you may find us permanently installed.

  5. I did the backing a boat down a ramp ONCE. And I think that was enough. I was going fishing with friends. The hubby – who was the usual driver – wanted to be on the ramp guiding. The smarter-than-I-was wife said no way was she driving his truck and boat on a trailer and backing it all up to get it launched. I said sure. I mean…they were taking me fishing, saying no seemed churlish.

    I didn’t wreck anything, and the boat made it safely into the water but yes, it ended up being much harder than I thought it was going to be!

  6. brother marty says:

    all towing aside:Ill have to disagree with ya its gunna be a great get that ;like Tony the Tiger GRREEAATT boating and Fishing season The Fishing Gods shall shine brightly on your new vessel and all will be good up Marstens Mills way.Yall make it happen and it will

  7. I know what you’re talking about with the “rampies.” When I was learning how to maneuver my boat into the marina, my dread would mix with anger as two or three crusty Yankees would laugh watching me bang and bounce into everything, without offering to help. It was great entertainment for them. I learned quickly that leaving the boat in gear as you approach the dock is bad, but as you’re throwing the rope to the dockhand, well that causes injury. After 5 years practice I’ve gotten pretty good, but still can’t convince anyone else in my family to learn. Some memories remain vivid.

    On naming your boat, take your time, get it right. It took us 3 years and after all the clever names people suggested, we chose to name it after our daughter Eau Claire. I don’t think you can go wrong naming it after a person or place you love.

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