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Free Range Human, Sailor, Writer, Artist, Videographer  

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Makes a Good Cruising Sailboat?

HideAway Anchored Off Caladesi Island Dunedin, Florida 
Two sailboats lying at the end of "C" Dock in our sailing club marina in Gulfport Fl.  One, a fully found Catalina 30 of mid 80's vintage, the other a mostly lost Com-pac 23 hull #2, a very early version of the latest Com-pac 23 IV.  HideAway is often described as the same boat unburdened by any of the new boat's amenities.

Both boats were leaving the same day for a week long cruise.  The Catalina float plan pointed them south to Charlotte Harbor, Fl with the option of staying longer while the HideAways plan wandered the opposite direction to Anclote Key near Tarpon Springs for no more than a week.

Both captains had spent the previous months preparing their boats while spending more boat dollars than they wanted gathering supplies for the cruise.


Catalina 30 

The Catalina has standing head room, full galley, queen size berth, a dining room table, full electronics, a fuel sipping diesel, a real head with shower, roller furler, davits, generator not to mention a dodger with full canvas. The list goes on and on. 

Basically it's an apartment that floats and sometimes sails.

HideAway has standing head room when the hatches are open, a Coleman camping stove used in the cockpit, two very comfortable settee berths, a hatch board table across the cockpit seats, an electric and manual depth finder, a new Garmin GPSmap 640 (I'll have a full review of it soon) a gas guzzling Mr. E,  and a solar shower that never seems to heat up.  Our head consists of a five gallon portapottie set up for deck pump out only and a home built vanity. The V berth has long been converted to storage for our three head sails and other essential stuff. We tow the wooden dink.


Known costs to prepare the Catalina pushed $2,000 including a new fuel and water pump and a new bank of gel batteries on a very long list.  I replaced the lower end of the Evinrude and had the prop rebuilt for $50.  The new GPS was around $600 plus some rewiring of a frightening electrical system.

Where's That Lighthouse Again?


HideAway cruised 92.3 NM at an average of 3.3kn, mostly under power, with a top speed of 6.3 under full main and 150 genny. (That new GPS is pretty cool, but it seems to like 0.3 of anything). 

We called at Dunedin, well, at an offshore island, Three Rooker Bar, Caladesi Island, explored the back waters of Anclote Key and anchored near several unnamed islands spending five nights and six days aboard.  The depth of all of our anchorages was 3 feet or less. The depth of St Joseph sound varies between 3 - 5 feet or so off the ICW.

A word from our Sailing Kitty- She's hungry!

Add your boat photo and name!

The Catalina spent one night at Long Boat Key, a day sail across Tampa Bay.  The crew woke up the next morning with dead gel batteries, no fridge, no house power and a generator that would not start.  Unwilling to face a week without the luxuries of home, they fired up the engine and headed for port.

The Catalina, drawing 5 feet would have missed all of our anchorages and not been safe to sail out of the ICW.  HideAway on the other hand, albeit, when her crew was younger, made the journey to Charlotte Harbor, Boca Grande and Cayo Costa. 

Your choice.  We have made ours.   

I hear the Catalina will be up for sale soon. 

Dead gel batteries and all.

HideAway Anchored Off  Anclote Key, Florida


Monday, May 13, 2013

Sailboat Trailer Building - A Risky Business - Measurements & Green Boat Update

Lowering a 4,000 lb Sailboat is a Delicate Process

Lowering the Green Boat on Jack Stands
Five jack stands per side were employed to distribute the weight. A five man crew each slowly adjusted their stand one turn each to lower the boat on command and in unison.  The set screws on the bunk supports had been loosened to allow them to self-adjust as the boat was lowered. The idea seemed reasonable at the time since the boat sets on its keel and the bunks just hold the boat uprignt.  The keel was a scant 3 inches above its final resting place.    

The Bunk Support Tubes Jammed

Bunk Support Tube Held by Set Screw at Bottom
The only recourse was to raise the boat and persuade the tubes to release.  This was accomplished with the aggressive use of 5 lb hammers and 2 x 6 wooden boards used as levers against the hull and bunk.  At one point the trailer and boat were jumping around so much that, as an observer, the only sane course of action was retreat.   

Unlike the Compac 23, The Green boat has a cut away keel.  As the boat was lowered to the trailer the bow tended to drop forward since there was no support to catch it.   In order to make final adjustments on the bunks a crate, 2 x 6 board and a bottle jack were used as a temporary support .  One minor adjustment was all it took. A warning shout followed by a thunderous crash and the breaking of timbers were next.

The Green Boat Fell - Again

The boat came to rest at a 20+ degree heel to starboard. At least this time leaning away from HideAway.  There were no injuries but the 2 x 8 keel support was shattered and the keel came to rest, padded by remnants of the board against a metal cross support on the trailer. Damage to the keel and centerboard are unknown.  The trailer was eventually repaired and only black tire marks on the pavement leaving the parking lot were left as evidence of the day's drama.

So, Still Wanna Build a Sailboat Trailer?

I thought so...  

Here's The First Problem with Measurements
Every trailer is different. Every boat is different.  If the measurements are off even a bit your pride and joy could end up like the Green Boat. 

 In the photo on your left not only is the top of the bunk board tipped inward, it also does not touch the hull.   

How can this be?  Well it's one of the forward supports.  The middle support is lower by a couple of inches and lacks the wood pad but what is the actual measurement of either?  Take your pick!

At about where the tape measure is located is the amount of this board I want to see when loading the boat.  At our ramp the boat rests on the forward end of the board until it glides on the trailer.  

Is this correct?  I don't know but it works for us

Looking at the end of the bunk the boat seems too high. Or is the bunk too long?  I don't know but it seems to work for our boat on this trailer only.

The most important thing to note on both photos is how the metal support is attached to a wood pad then bolted to the bunk.  The Green Boat lacked this feature and now has a holy hull.  

The Best Feature of the Trailer

Front end of keel guide - Note the rust 
Notice how high the keel guides are over the 2 x 12. 

The keel does not have to be on the trailer very far before it catches the guards and centers the boat. 

The keel is about eight feet long but the support should be longer. 

Luck alone saved the day for HideAway since we have never been able to get the keel to the end of the bunk.

Stern end of keel guides Com-Pac 23

The trick is knowing how deep the trailer should go to catch the keel.  Too deep and the keel won't catch.  To shallow and you'll wish you had more gears on the trailer winch.

Other Concerns

 Old Trailers Rust Quick!

If you trailer your boat down the road further than HideAways off road journey of a few hundred feet you will probably want one of these. 
HideAways Bow Support Pad
The bow support pad reduces the rocking horse effect of bumpy roads.  If the Green Boat was so equipped it would not have fallen the second time. I keep the pad as low as possible for launching as it's no fun pushing the bow off of it nor cranking the boat over it.  

While the Com-Pac 23 is considered a shallow draft boat our boat and trailer combination requires at least three feet of water to launch.  I always use a tongue extender.  Always, even though it makes our total length of the rig at 40 feet. 

Would I do it Again?

I knew nothing of trailer building when I started this project and can   truly state that I now have enough experience and knowledge to leave it to the professionals should I need another trailer.  A new trailer adds good value to a 23 Com-pac because very few 23s have a trailer in the first place.

I don't believe it is cost effective in the long run to rebuild a trailer (see the rust photos above) and as the Green Boat experience shows us, trailer building is a risky business for the boat and your continued existence. 

(Any information used from Sailing HideAway is at your own risk)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Building A Sail Boat Trailer

Loading this boat for the first time met with disaster
Someone recently asked me if rebuilding a junkyard trailer to suit HideAway was a good idea. I can tell you that on the surface we saved more half the cost of a new trailer. The trailer we chose was for a much larger boat and in retrospect is considerably over built for its current use.

Three years down the road we have replaced two of the four tires and the other two are not safe to take on the highway. Incidentally the cost of a proper trailer tire for this load is over $1.00  in boat dollars.  The lug nuts on one of the wheels are so badly rusted they will have to be cut off at some point. 

The brake shoes on both wheels have rusted to the point of extinction.  Have a look at my video "Rusted Boat Trailer Shoes".  I've changed a lot of drum brake shoes in my time but nothing prepared me for this!  Stainless steel disc brakes are the most likely answer.  Be prepared to spend at least $1.50 boat dollars per wheel.

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The bolts that hold the entire suspension have been replaced after I discovered some of them were rusted half though. See my blog post "The HideAways Lose Their Nuts".  

During that project I couldn't help but notice other future projects such as:  How the springs have rusted, not to mention the axle and trailer cross members. The bunk support tubes are new but in just three years several have a thick coating of rust.  The heavy fenders are now covered with rust bubbles like a bad rash.  

I should mention here that all trailer parts are hot dipped galvanized metal.  I thoroughly wash all trailer components after each outing.  

Has This Nice Morgan Cruiser Met Its End? 

The bunk support bar just behind the forward wheel has punched a hole in the hull and penetrated the interior of the boat.

After building our trailer the next step was determining how high to make the bunks.  On our trailer the keel rests on a 2 x 12 and the bunks function is to keep the boat from falling over.  

I took many and careful measurements of three other Compac 23s on trailers at our sailing club resulting in three different sets of bunk heights whether measured from the top rails of the trailers or from the ground.  

No Method Produced Accurate Results  

Each trailer was constructed just a bid differently and the heights above the ground varied from tire size and inflation to the variances of  the parking lot surface.   

Bunk Support - Don't Make One Like This 

The 2 x 4 used as the bunk support is directly mounted on top of a 2" pipe.
I eventually came up with a measurement that I was confident in using. Then I semi-tightened the pivot points on each bunk leg so they would conform to the hull as the boat loaded and made sure the the mid bunk would follow the curve of the hull. I fully tightened the bolts controlling the vertical movement of the bunks and kept the wrenches close at hand.

HideAways trailer has 2 x 6 bunks 

HideAway's bunks are made from 2 x 6 pt wood with a pad bolted to the metal swivel on the bunk leg.  The bunk cannot slide off the support leg.

Stopping several times to inspect the general fit of the bunks and guide on rails, we pulled HideAway slowly up the bumpy ramp.   Just when I thought all was fine someone hollered with obvious fear in his voice.  I raced to the starboard side and found that bunk a good six inches down from the hull while the port side was perfect.  

Only HideAway's fat keel kept her from falling! 


The 2 x 4 mounted directly on the bracket with only two small screws slipped off the post and broke through the hull up into the cabin. 

So is building or rebuilding, as was our case, really a good value?  The best I can say is that we have a stronger, longer trailer than standard and that it fulfilled its purpose at the time.  

However, I believe the life span and cost of maintenance of the older trailer is significantly lower in the first case and higher in the other.  All in all, if I had $3,500 to spend on a new trailer at the time I would have done just that.     

HideAways junkyard trailer rebuild
To see close up views of HideAway's trailer construction click on the link below.