Advantages/Disadvantages of Trailer Sailing

Trailer sailing is on the increase but what is it ? A trailer sailer is a boat that can be towed by most reasonably size family cars. Most sailing dinghies are moved on trailers so can be described as trailer sailers. These however are covered in the dinghy section of Go Sail website. Our discussion of trailer sailers will concentrate on boats which can be used for day, weekend or extended sailing ie those with some sort of sleeping accommodation. In this section we will concentrate on the advantages and disadvantages of trailer sailing.

Advantages of Trailer Sailing

A trailer sailer offers a number of benefits and options that should be considered by almost anyone in the market for a sailboat. Obviously if you are looking for a reasonably large yacht then trailing is not really an option unless you happen to own an heavy duty boat transporter !

1. Eliminate Mooring / Storage fees

Having the ability to tow your yacht behind a car means that you can choose where to store it. If space is available then many choose to store their boats on their own property. Not only is this free but it can be convenient if you are wanting to work on the boat.

2. Broader Horizons

By trailering your boat you can launch anywhere you can tow the boat to. This opens up a wide geographical range of sailing venues which may have taken too long to reach by sailing there. sailers with limited time available and a number of good sailing locations nearby will want to consider tailoring their boats to increase the time they can spend on the water in these locations.

3. Car/Boat Camping

Your boat can act as a camper. After all, what’s the difference between a boat with sleeping accommodation on a trailer and a caravan ? Pull into a campsite, park up and that’s it !

4. Reduced Maintenance

Trailer sailers obviously spend less time in the water than a boat that is permanently moored, which means weeds, barnacles and the like don’t tend to grow on their hulls. This means there is no need to spend money every year on lift outs and very expensive anti-fouling paints to kill off marine organisms.

Since trailer sailers can be easily moved they can be stored somewhere undercover during the winter months when not in use meaning there is less weathering of wooden decks etc.

Strange as it may seem water, especially salt water is bad news for all boats. Leaving a boat floating for weeks on end in a marina only helps generating ‘osmosis’ damage to the hull. The first step in treating osmosis is to lift the boat out of the water and let it dry out.

At the end of its voyage every trailer sailer is lifted out of the water and blown dry by the wind on the way home ! This is the reason why trailer sailers will remain in good condition long after boats left in a marina have rotted away.

Disadvantages of Trailer Sailing

1. Boat size limitations

The physical size of the boat matters. Too wide and it may not be legal to tow, too tall and you may have problems with the clearance under branches etc. If the boat is too long it could be difficult to maneuver. Weight is also a crucial factor as there are legal limits to consider.

Boats with large keels and/or rudders require extra care if they are to be used as trailer sailers. Higher trailers will be required to accommodate the boats and so height limits may come into play. Boats that have swing keels and with kick-up/removable rudders will be much easier to trailer.

Some masts can be easily unstepped and stepped, depending upon weight and length. Some will require special equipment to help with the task; others can simply be lifted out by one person and laid in a cradle. In some cases, masts can be equipped with tabernacles, or hinges above deck, to simplify the process. When buying a trailer sailer consider this factor or trailer sailing could quickly become tiresome !

Another restriction regarding trailerable boats is draft. Vessels with relatively deep keels are often difficult to launch on ramps.

Since boat size is restricted so is the accommodation on board. It must be said however that many trailer sailers are surprisingly roomy.

2. Rigging/sailing time

Getting a boat from its trailering state to its ready to sail state will usually take longer than it would if the boat is docked or moored. For example the mast must be stepped, rigging secured etc.

3. Launching

Generally a launch ramp will be needed to launch your trailer sailer. Obviously its a good idea to investigate the launching facilities in your immediate area.

– Are they subject to tidal variations that could make ramp launching difficult?
– Is the ramp steep enough so that a deeper draft boats can be launched?
– Is the ramp long enough to launch longer boats without immersing the trailer ?
– Is there enough vertical height above the launch area for mast clearance ?
Prop wash from powerboats can often create large holes at the bottom of ramps that can swallow up a trailer’s wheels and possibly damage the trailer axles.

Also how easy is the boat to get on and off the trailer ? Winches obviously help.

4. Trailer maintenance

The trailer itself also need to be taken into consideration. Trailers require regular maintenance especially those that are regularly immersed in water or left uncovered all year round. Wheels bearings, tyres, suspension and electrical components all require some degree of DIY ability or professional maintenance.

Starting trailer sailing can be daunting for the beginner. Many new skills may be required such as towing a trailer, launching from ramps, rigging/derigging your boat on a regular basis etc. Many hardened trailer sailers however suggest that the rewards and cost savings far outweight the disadvantages and steep learning curve.