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Thread: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

  1. #1
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    Default Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Hi All,

    I'm back to being a sailboat owner after the Sinking/Refloating/Selling of my 26' Garden Cutter Spray two years ago.
    I swore off Marinas at that time, and am finally following through after acquiring a trailer-borne fin keeled 24'

    The trailer needs an overhaul and some welding/refinishing repair. If it makes sense, I was going to retrofit it with a beefy landing gear which would allow disconnect from tow vehicle, and gravity launching the boat by controlling the glide of trailer down the ramp via a winch.

    Any suggestions which would ease leading the boat on and off the trailer are welcome. The trailer has no built in ladder near the hitch which I see as mighty handy, especially as doubling as a rack to support the mast.

    I realize that some fin-keeled boats are likely meant to be crane launched only, especially if they are one designs/ part of large racing series. Not sure where I'd fit in.

    Boat is about 3000lbs all in, and draws 3 1/2' water.

    Is this something were I really need to go and measure the rise/run of the ramps I'd likely be using, or are there "Rules of Thumb"?
    Tow vehicle would by my '92 Dodge D350, a Dually which weighs 5800lbs but is not 4WD. Would rather not lose traction and slip beneath the waves with it.
    Thanks

    Brian
    Last edited by BrianM; 02-24-2021 at 04:32 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    I launch my Somes Sound 12.5 from a trailer but she draws only 1.5 feet. I use a five foot tongue extension for this. I cannot launch at low tides. I think you should begin by measuring the ramps you're likely to use. If the depth isn't available, you need to know that before wasting a lot of time and effort.

    Jeff

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    I had a similar situation with my Star, which is one of the reasons that I eventually got rid of it. In my case, it sat stern forward on the trailer on a couple of big carpeted cradles. A previous owner had cut a pathway through the middle of the forward cradle (stern end of the hull, forward end of the trailer). In order to launch the damned thing I had to stop on the flat above the ramp, unhook the trailer, put the little front leg down, turn it around, tie the trailer to a long rope, tie that to the hitch and back down the ramp until the trailer was buried. What a royal pain in the ass. Also, since power boaters tend to rev their engines in order to drive their boats up on the trailers, there is quite often a big, deep hole scoured out at the bottom of the concrete ramp apron. All you could do is just hope the Star floated off before the trailer rolled off the cliff and into the hole.

    This also relegated us to only sailing on slow days at the ramp, as we would have been really unpopular doing all this stuff on a busy weekend at the launch ramp. I feel your pain and sympathize, but I don't have any better solution for the problem.

    star (3).jpg

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Might look into one of those hydraulic elevating trailers as used for pontoon boats. It would take some fabricating but perhaps you could sell the original trailer to help pay for a trailer that can raise/lower your boat in order to reduce the tongue length required? Depends on your motivation to solve the problem, your skills/funds to get some custom work done, and perhaps some boat specific things that you'll have to judge for yourself.

    Skip to 1:40 at the video below to see what kind of trailer I'm talking about in case you are unfamiliabr /> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAEidaUehNI

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    The waterline sit 60" above the ground. My calculations show that the trailer's single axle needs to be 20' past entry into the water for 72" of depth at the axle. The trailer is perhaps 12' - 14' long, so might get away with dropping the c-channel which cradles the fin by about 6". This would require cutting the rear crossbar on the trailer and putting a 6" deep notch, but that might buy me about 5' which might just correspond to putting a telescopic tongue instead of having to winch it up and down the ramp. I'll revisit my measurements a few times to see if that really works. I measured depth vs. distance from waterline at the ramp a couple of years ago at one nearby location. It has silted up quite a bit, so this may no longer be true.


    Thanks

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    We trailer launched and retrieved a 24' Shark from a ramp for several years.
    The keel shoe sat in a pocket on the trailer,which added much difficulty.
    A better setup would have had tapered guide fences for the keel that were open and quite wide at the aft end,narrowing towards the front.
    We never used a winch.
    Only a piece of big line half-hitched around the trailer ball and gravity for the launch, and Ford 5-litre H.O.power for hauling out.
    Oy. And big chocks for the trailer wheels.
    R
    Sleep with one eye open.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Not sure if this will help you much, but my old boss launched his Typhoon with a homemade trailer extension. We used a 4x4 post that had to be bolted on and off at the ramp and the trailer hitch was a sheet metal contraption we came up with. It is a smaller boat though at 18' 6", 2000 pounds, and 2' 7" draft.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    [QUOTE=Todd Bradshaw;6397823]I had a similar situation with my Star, which is one of the reasons that I eventually got rid of it. In my case, it sat stern forward on the trailer ...

    A digression:
    I remember a 110 with similar trailer setup. The boat’s name? ASCEND II

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    i like it

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    I had so much fun launching the Star that I repeated a similar scenario with both the Mini 12 and the Nordica. I think I need to start liking centerboarders more.

    tube-006.jpg

    nordica 4.jpg

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Fit keel guides, this are angled bunks constraining your keel to land in position when retrieving. Fit a bow post tall enough to still be visible when the trailer is fully submerged. It can be combined wit a bow ladder. Fit a proper wheel on the tongue, with bearings and all, can be combined with a jack, and can be your spare wheel. Another way is to have a wheeled tounge extension that you carry with you on the trailer, you either get used to the double articulation or use some locking mechanism.
    On very steep ramps you can only use a towstrap for launching, otherwise a tongue extension. The goal is to never put the tow vehicle on the wet if you can avoid it.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    I had troubles launching my simple boat too....until made a 6' tongue extension. Still have to pay attention to the tide, but I don't get into the water all the way to exhaust pipe anymore......not even rear tires

    hitch3.jpg

    LBear3.jpg
    "Little Bear" 1955 Fontana 18' - 1958 Atomic 4
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    I've launched a Lysander 17, draft 18 inches, and a Yeoman 20ft Keelboat draft 3ft, off slipways.

    In the Lysander's case is was a tank landing craft slipway, very steep with a large tidal range. I had to use an anchor rope round a bollard near the top to lower the boat down or retrieve the boat from the water.

    Arrive with the car , reverse trailer to top of slip way, park put trailer brake on, unhook, tie on anchor rope, drive car away, leaving just enough slack to push trailer over onto slope. brake on in car, get out take trailer brake off, push trailer over edge. Go back to car lowly reverse car looking to left to watch boat drop into water.. reverse for getting the boat out. I could climb over the front of the boat and trailer without getting my feet wet.

    The boat was guided onto the trailer by two vertical arms at the back edge of the trailer, and the keels into place by a V of metal work.

    The yeoman it was a straight slipway just reverse and lower the boat in, for longer slipways use the anchor rope again.. it just has the V on the trailer for the keel when recovering, but it's inland waterways, so no waves moving the boat around.

    I'm currently modifying a trailer from lift keel to fin keel, included in the mods to be built are the two vertical arms at the back end outer edges of the trailer to guide the boat in , and a V to guide the keel into place. Due to the construction of boat and trailer, that too will be towed with the boat stern first.

    I now use a landrover with an additional front towball that makes it a lot easier to see what you're doing launching.
    Just an amateur bodging away..

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Y'all lucky to be able to take a few extra moments at the ramp for yer blow botes.
    Maga's round 'heah na tek kindly to dat.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    I've done it with a 3'2" draft on a tall trailer. Measured depth at the end of the paving at high tide, used a half hitch around the ball to control descent. When she got to the end the bow was still on props but the stern was afloat. I just waded in and pushed it off. Silenced the ramp critics.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2dogsnight View Post
    I had troubles launching my simple boat too....until made a 6' tongue extension. Still have to pay attention to the tide, but I don't get into the water all the way to exhaust pipe anymore......not even rear tires

    hitch3.jpg

    LBear3.jpg

    Wow! With the articulation point being 6' from the truck, backing that rig must be tricky. The trailer extension on mine keeps the articulation at the vehicle so my trailer then becomes very easy to control.

    I've also lowered my trailer in with a tow strap and that works fine. But it means more fussing while on the ramp. With my extension, once the boat is launched I can drive the vehicle/trailer with it's extension intact away and park it. Removing the extension is done quietly and unhurried in the parking lot.

    Jeff

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rumars View Post
    Fit keel guides, this are angled bunks constraining your keel to land in position when retrieving. Fit a bow post tall enough to still be visible when the trailer is fully submerged. It can be combined wit a bow ladder. Fit a proper wheel on the tongue, with bearings and all, can be combined with a jack, and can be your spare wheel. Another way is to have a wheeled tounge extension that you carry with you on the trailer, you either get used to the double articulation or use some locking mechanism.
    On very steep ramps you can only use a towstrap for launching, otherwise a tongue extension. The goal is to never put the tow vehicle on the wet if you can avoid it.
    I was thinking almost exactly what you've detailed after looking at a few well thought out fin keel boat trailers. Many features used on Marine Railways also make sense for a sailboat trailer and aren't difficult to add. While I'm at it, I'm going to add surge breaks as this trailer has NO brakes.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Q View Post
    and a V to guide the keel into place..
    I like this feature.. a Course Lead-In tapering to a Fine Lead-In.

    I think using a philosophy of getting the boat onto the trailer with your eyes closed will help minimize time on the ramps.

    Avoiding the stupidity of impatient ramp-ragers is on my list of getting in and out quickly.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianM View Post
    I was thinking almost exactly what you've detailed after looking at a few well thought out fin keel boat trailers. Many features used on Marine Railways also make sense for a sailboat trailer and aren't difficult to add. While I'm at it, I'm going to add surge breaks as this trailer has NO brakes.
    I looked at fitting brakes to my trailer but the cost of over £500, wasn't worth it.

    I don't know your laws, but in the UK a loaded unbraked trailer has to be under 750kg (1653lbs), and no more than half the weight of the tow vehicle. My vehicle is well over that so I shouldn't have too much of a problem..
    Just an amateur bodging away..

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    I actually don't know the law here, but the boat is sitting so high, I just don't want to see what happens in a panic stop when the trailer jack-knifes. If the center of gravity was much lower, it would not cause so much concern.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    The law in California is trailers 1500 lbs and over must have brakes.
    I launch (in Maine) our Rosinante 4-1/2 ft draft with a 24 ft tongue extension (wood 4x6, spruce) that I install at the ramp. "U-bolts" clamp it to the existing tongue, it stows on the trailer next to the keel, normally. My other yawl, 3' draft, is on the trailer bow down and it will usually float right off. Steep launch ramps are best.
    Both boats are very close to the ground on their trailers, maybe max 5-6 inches at the rear cross member. You have to pay attention when pulling in and out of gas stations, diagonal seems to work, we have never hit the boat on the ground, yet...

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianM View Post
    I actually don't know the law here, but the boat is sitting so high, I just don't want to see what happens in a panic stop when the trailer jack-knifes. If the center of gravity was much lower, it would not cause so much concern.
    That's the big advantage to trailer brakes: not only do they help slow you down faster, but they make the trailer less likely to say "Hey! My turn to go first!" in a panic stop. I personally prefer electric brakes over surge mostly because with electric you can use the controller to apply the trailer brakes without applying the vehicle brakes, but others feel differently. Retro-fitting electric is often cheaper than surge as well.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    That's the big advantage to trailer brakes: not only do they help slow you down faster, but they make the trailer less likely to say "Hey! My turn to go first!" in a panic stop. I personally prefer electric brakes over surge mostly because with electric you can use the controller to apply the trailer brakes without applying the vehicle brakes, but others feel differently. Retro-fitting electric is often cheaper than surge as well.
    How well do electric brakes hold up to saltwater submersion?

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianM View Post
    How well do electric brakes hold up to saltwater submersion?
    Hah! No brakes old up well. First thing is to disconnect before submersing, 2nd is to thoroughly rinse afterwards. The guts of brakes - whether hydraulic (as surge are) or electric will rust, as there are lots of little bits.

    The main difference is that electric brakes are actuated by a magnet instead of a hydraulic cylinder. Most of the rest of the hardware is basically the same:

    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Just looked up the regulations for electric brakes in the UK (which for the moment are still the same as the EU.) because they are practically unknown over here.

    Brakes must be automatic, so no switching them on in the cab.
    The sensor for it to know when to brake, must be on the trailer,
    The trailer must have battery backup for the electrical system.
    All new trailers must have braking on all wheels.
    All new trailers must have a parking brake.
    The braking must come on if the trailer separates from the tow vehicle.

    As for the centre of gravity of my Boat / trailer combination.
    Hull 244kg
    Keel 188 Kg,,(and 150KG of that is in the lead lump on the bottom 6 inches)
    Trailer I've not weighed it yet as it's not finished, but I'm allowing 300kg.

    So 450KG will be within 18 inches of the ground or slightly better than 60% of total weight, with a 4 foot wide hull on a 7 foot wide (including wheels) trailer.
    Last edited by The Q; 02-26-2021 at 02:45 AM.
    Just an amateur bodging away..

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    The controllers here in the colonies are automatic, but you can also apply them manually. That is very handy in slippery conditions. We too have a battery setup that turns on the brakes if disconnected from the towing vehicle.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianM View Post
    Boat is about 3000lbs all in, and draws 3 1/2' water.

    Is this something were I really need to go and measure the rise/run of the ramps I'd likely be using, or are there "Rules of Thumb"?
    Tow vehicle would by my '92 Dodge D350, a Dually which weighs 5800lbs but is not 4WD. Would rather not lose traction and slip beneath the waves with it.
    Thanks

    Brian
    I think you should take a good look at your available ramps at low tide to see which ones will work. A trailer-mounted draft of 60" is pretty deep, so I'd expect launch and retrievals at high tide, you really don't want to drop the trailer wheels off the end of the ramp. High tide also means your truck tires aren't likely to be in the slippery stuff, that'll help.
    Steve

    If you would have a good boat, be a good guy when you build her - honest, careful, patient, strong.
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  28. #28
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Electric brakes must have a Break-away device which consists of a trailer mounted switch and battery pack (that must be kept charged) I think they are rather a pain in the butt.
    Surge brakes are a good way to go, I haven't tried the SS disc surge brakes yet but they would certainly be easy to wash the salt from. Up to #5000 lbs, brakes on a single axle of a pair are considered adequate. After that I prefer brakes on both axles.
    One issue with surge brakes is backing up, this can apply the brakes. There are several different methods of dealing with this. One is a mechanical lock-out on the surge unit itself (usually a 1/2" pin) another is an electric solenoid operated valve activated by the back-up lights and closing the hydraulic circuit. And third is "free backing brake shoes" which are hinged and do not work in reverse. These have more moving parts and I don't use them on boat trailers.
    The "flush kit" that connects a garden hose to the brake backing plates is worth every penny.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Trailer Launching Fin Keel Sailboat?

    Originally Posted by BrianM

    How well do electric brakes hold up to saltwater submersion?
    They don't.

    See Canoeyawl's post.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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