With 2.4 million US chinook, 1.6 million Alberni sockeye, 1 million coho for the Columbia alone, and those abundant wild WCVI coho, and Conuma, Robertson Creek, and Nitinat springs this summer, you may be – and should be – planning a trip to the west coast of the island.
To get there and back safely take time with your boat trailer so you are confident it will do the deed of carrying you and boat both ways. Trailers get left out in the rain year round and each spring, do some maintenance to make sure they continue working safely and soundly. Nothing worse than being on the highway in a break down. While it may seem obvious, the first thing is pay your insurance. Make the due date the same as your car so you see to both at the same time.
Sitting out in the rain, boat on the trailer puts strain on the axles and so repacking bearings should be an annual chore, when the boat is being serviced. Manufacturers recommend twice per year, but, of course we don’t get to things that quickly, and their warranties are only 12 months, hence the reason for their caution. Warranties typically extend to corrosion of frame metal components for five years.
Grease the winch and jack regularly. Shoot WD 40 into the bearings and other moving parts. When lifting the boat, pick up that block of wood you put under the jack wheel and put it on the boat. Also, when storing the boat, leave one of those concrete blocks for setting fence posts – a good 25 pounds – behind one wheel, and another in front of it, on a single axle trailer, and between the wheels for a double axle trailer.
Make sure your tongue weight at the jack end is compatible with your tongue and vehicle. The ball on the tongue must be the right size for your jack, as well. Mine are 310 lbs and 1 and 7/8ths of an inch. Also check with your manufacturer to make sure your vehicle can adequately pull the fully-loaded weight of boat and trailer. By the time you are fuelled up and gear stowed, you can have added 500 pounds more than the rated weight of trailer and boat. Remember to lift the jack wheel once the boat is attached to the tongue.
Check lights, blinkers and brake lights each time out, and wash the trailer with freshwater after each saltwater launch. Disconnect the lights before each launch. When the boat is not on the trailer, walk around and check u-bolts, wheels and so on for corrosion.
When reloading, make sure you have tilted the leg or engine up so neither will hit the pavement – do so after the boat is attached to trailer. Bring the boat straight in onto the bunks, attach the line and hook and winch the boat right up to the block. Pull the boat out and then attach your chains to both boat and vehicle. If the boat has not sat down square on the trailer, back it into the water and adjust.
Once you are satisfied with the load, attach your tie downs to the transom. The more secure the boat, the less likely it will shift during the tow. On gravel roads, it makes good practice to stop after a few bumpy kilometres and reassure yourself that your boat is good and tight. A tight boat cannot move, and this is good practice for all loads you carry; if they shift, you can have an accident.
Check tires for proper inflation and adjust at a gas station before your trip. A cigarette lighter tire inflater should be left under the back seat of your car at all times. If it does not have a gauge, leave a ‘pen’ style gauge in your glove box. If you are going on a gravel road, make sure you have completely closed down the boat – windows, hatches, soft tops. Otherwise you will arrive with a very dusty boat that will have to be cleaned out before you can use it.
And if you are stowing extra gas containers, make them mid-ship to bow – they are heavy – on the centreline, and wedged in place so they cannot shift. Air-out the boat promptly at your destination to dispel fumes. Also have at least one large funnel for emptying fuel into boat tanks.
Large is the important word because adding fuel in waves is a sloppy process. The world’s largest cooler – for all the big fish you will catch – is a must. Again, strap it down inside the boat. Ditto for bicycles, chainsaws and etcetera. Stow fenders between objects to wedge them tight. Now, catch more than your share of the fish.