Friday, April 01, 2005

Launching a Trailer Sailer

My friend Theo has a Sailfish trailer sailer, and yesterday the tide at Hullbridge was just right for launching her. With the help of John, a friend of Theo’s, putting the boat in the water was an easy thing to do. What little wind there was came from the south east, which was absolutely ideal, as the tide was making from the east and the south bank of the River Crouch gave good protection.

Theo has owned his Sailfish, ‘Blue Marlin’, for a number of years and he has made several useful modifications which make sailing and launching her easy.

I was impressed with the mast lifting device which is a loop of metal hinged to the aft lower ends of the pulpit on both sides of the boat. When the lifting device is in the upright position the tack end of the roller forestay is attached to it by a simple slot-in clip. Meanwhile the upper end of the mast is supported by a crutch attached to the transom so that the foot of the mast is slightly angled downwards towards the bow. A long rubber bungee tied to the mast immediately below the spreaders is led forward under tension to the mooring cleat near the bow. This takes part of the weight of the mast as the crew ‘walks’ the mast to the upright position. In actual fact, the person lifting the mast walks forward into the open cabin while standing on top of the keel casing. An assistant takes the tack end of the forestay and clips its shackle to a fitting at the bow.

Before the mast is hoisted one of the shrouds must be loosened at its bottle screw, but once the mast is in the upright position, tension is taken up again and both the forestay shackle and the rigging screw are wired to keep them from undoing. Then the rubber bungee is pulled down the mast by using a boat hook before being removed. Next, the lifting device is unbolted; afterwards this ‘u’ shaped metal loop, made in two halves, is dissembled for compact stowage.

What I’ve been trying to explain sounds complicated, and perhaps by now many readers have given up trying to understand it, but in practice, putting the mast up is very easy.

Because the combined weight of the boat and trailer is more than can be held back by three people on the slipway, Theo uses a one block rope tackle to take the load. A long rope is first attached to a fixed ring near the top of the slipway; it is then passed through a block at the front end of the trailer and back to a towing loop at the front of his car. Slack is taken up by removing the wheel blocks while controlling the trailer’s rate of descent down the slipway by judicial use of the trailer’s brake. Gradually the car is eased forward to let gravity convey the boat down the slipway while the helpers guide her. When the trailer wheels are a few inches short of the waterline wheel chocks are set in place to prevent further movement.

Launching in this case, really means ‘launching’! Two people lift the front end of the trailer and without ceremony the boat slides into the water; meanwhile one of the helpers pays out her painter speedily so as not to receive rope burns. (He would do well to wear leather gloves to prevent injury to his hands.)

After the boat has been launched, the engine and rudder are shipped. Because ‘Blue Marlin’ only draws a few inches of water the crew can wade out to her. With the use of the engine the boat is taken to her nearby mooring while towing her tender.

The whole leisurely business of making ready the tender, launching the boat and returning the tender to the Up River Yacht Club took about two and a half hours. We certainly didn’t rush the procedure; instead we made it an enjoyable experience.


Sailfish 18

The Up River Yacht Club


Sailfish 18 Class Association Class Secretary, Jackie McGuiness, 40, chapel Street, Spondon, Derbys. DE21 7UJ. (I hope this up-to-date.)

An illustrated article about the Sailfish 18 in "Practical Boat Owner" - Number 404, August 2000.

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