Everybody knows that buying a pleasure boat is just buying a hole into which to throw money. But nobody said anything about the thing you need to transport the hole to the money-throwing place.
A trailer, that is.
Just about all my life I've planned one day to own a center-console fishing boat, but they cost a bundle. The only way I could afford a boat was to get a used one, and they are always snatched up by quicker people.
Last month I got lucky. The quicker guy was already there when I arrived at Jack McKim's house to look at his 1973 Mako but the quicker guy bid low. I bid high and got boat, motor and trailer.
First thing I did was call John, who knows everything there is to know about boats. He took a look and said, "I like your boat, I like your motor, but I really like your trailer."
Until then I hadn't given the trailer a thought. I figured a trailer is just a couple of wheels and some steel rails. What could go wrong with a rig like that?
McKim and his neighbor helped me take delivery of my 17-foot yacht on a cool November afternoon. We puttered across the West River to a community boat ramp while my wife drove the car around. We had already made the first investment, $60 for a shiny Class 3 trailer hitch that poked out under the back bumper of the Dodge.
The trailer slid neatly into the water; the nose of the boat nestled against it and then the troubles began.
The line to crank boat onto trailer was an old frayed rope.Through careful application of various physical forces we managed to get the boat halfway aboard, but it was obvious a steel cable winch line was needed.
With the boat dangling in that semiprecarious position I jumped behind the wheel and put the pedal to the metal. The old Dodge roared, burning smells emanated from the clutch, and after a long delay the wheel bit and began to dig itself a hole.
"Hold it," said McKim, who has experience with such problems. He called a neighbor who had a four-wheel drive and the neighbor jerked Dodge, boat and trailer out of much with a chain.
Once on dry land we took inspection and discovered that the trailer tires has sat so long they'd dry-rotted. They would have to be replaced soon. In the meantime they were holding air, but very little of it. We drove to a gas station and along the way one of the wheel-bearing caps fell off.
We slapped a temporary tag on the trailer and drove home along back roads, keeping the speed way down since the lights hadn't been hooked up and we had no idea how long the tires would hold up.
Trailers need running lights, brake lights and turn signals. Wiring kits are available and the man at the store said it was so simple you could do it yourself.
Four hours into this simple operation I called my neighbor Dick, who bills himself as "master of the mechanical world." He came over with the equipment he normally reserves for wiring light shows at rock concerts and in only half a day we had one brake light, one running light and both directional signals working.
The lady at the Motor Vehicle Department said registration of the trailer was no problem, but it wasn't cheap. Charges are based on weight and each trailer must be weighed and inspected. I have a 285-pound trailer but there is this 2,000-pound boat sitting on it. The weighmaster doesn't care; he weighs what you bring in.
I'm still trying to figure out where to leave the boat when I go in to get weighed.
I love my boat but I'm worried the trailer is going to bankrupt me. The lights are finally working (off and on) and I've bought some bearing "buddies" to replace the lost cap. The steel cable is ready to install.
There's a place to buy new tires but they only come with wheels and they cost $50 apiece. The temporary tags have expired, and the thing still isn't weighed and inspected. It costs $136 every four months for a parking space at the boatyard.
Obviously a great big new car is in order. The Dodge only pulls it on level ground, and there is no such thing as a level launch ramp. On the highway, boat and trailer knock gas mileage down by 25 percent and it feels like you're towing a whale down the beach.
Next time I go boat-hunting, first thing I'll do is kick the tires.