Two weeks ago I was pulling my boat on Burnt Store Road when I came across a scene that made me shudder.
I've been trailering for nearly 45 years and not once have I lost a bearing or had other catastrophic trailer failure. That said, I'm knocking on all the wood I can find.
I first saw the trailered boat sitting solo along the road then noticed it was sitting very low.
CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON
As I got closer I saw why; it looked like while under way the single axle had come free from the trailer frame, slid back and out from under the trailer and caught between the motor skeg and the transom. Luckily, the boaters were able to get off the road and I saw that on Sunday, with the help of several friends, the trailer was back up on its wheels and no one was killed.
A good friend traveling to Canada got confused passing through a construction zone on the interstate late at night. Hundreds of road cones were everywhere and he chose the wrong path. At 50 mph he crossed a six-foot open section where damaged concrete had been removed for replacement and made it across the 10-inch deep ditch. The boat and trailer made it as well minus axle, springs, fenders, lights, license plate, wheels and tires. Sheared them clean off. No one killed, amazing.
Another friend towing his old Boston Whaler up I-95 late one windy night had a slight issue while crossing an overpass. His wench stand broke free from the trailer tongue with a loud crack. Of course, we all know what's attached to the wench stand. He told me he looked up in the rear view just as the hull caught air and lifted somersaulting the hull over the road then disappearing over the side of the overpass and falling to the highway below.
Late at night, no traffic, no fatalities. Rear tie downs would have helped, a little. One bad trailer support, one dead Boston Whaler.
We all take for granted our trailer holding our heavy hull, motor, gas, and 500 pounds of ice and tackle is not going to fall apart. First mistake.
Many don't realize that most axles holding your heavyweight pride and joy are held on by simple U bolts using four to eight nuts that are constantly under heavy vibration, torque, and stress. If the boat trailer curse is part of your life like mine, at least once a year dock the boat and get out the socket set and go over any and all nuts and bolts. You may be surprised at what you find. If you do find a loose one, be happy.
Also, it's a good time to look at those springs and if rotted with corrosion replace them. Inspect all welds and areas around them for cracks. If a crack has started, it's not safe, it's a time bomb. Fix it pronto.
Lights hanging down by one wire throwing sparks while dragging the road do not count "as working trailer lights" by the at least 25 or so Sheriff's office men and women that now patrol Matlacha, which at this point would have to be the world's safest tiny town.
Strip them off and put on a good set of LEDs at about $75 for the whole kit (lights, wiring, and both male and female plugs). Let's face it, we can put little robot cars on Mars, but there's one thing you can bet no one has made a trailer light that lasts very long in saltwater. The sealed LED type are a great improvement over the other old school, sure-fail bulb type, and worth the extra 30 bucks or so a set.
Trailer bearings? Grease-grease-grease, again. If you can't remember when those bearings were changed, its time to change them.
Grease is cheap, bearings are cheap. Road service at night for your boat trailer is not.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.flyingfinssportfishing,com.