Don’t ruin a good holiday because of a lack of planning.
Many of our clients are getting ready for the annual pilgrimage to the coast. This article is about some preventative measures you can take to save yourself heartache and expense. Yes, a “breakdown” can be a relatively minor thing, but we often discount the inconvenience, leave days wasted, bookings wasted, impact on those travelling with us etc. It really is just easier to do a touch of preparation before leaving.
As a starting point, ensure that BOTH your boat AND your trailer are insured. Whilst some automatically do this, others have had issues because their trailer isn’t insured.
Trailers in general and boat trailers specifically can have many issues. The difficult part of a boat trailer issue at the coast, or in the middle of nowhere, is that a boat trailer is specific to the boat/hull. It’s not easy to simply borrow or hire a trailer to get your boat home.
Check launch routes with locals and always beware of pedestrians on the beach.
It’s worth checking your tyres (including the spare tyre) before a long trip, as well as the trailer brakes if equipped. Check all the lights. It is also critically important to check that the wheel bearings are correctly lubricated. If you’re unfamiliar with this procedure, rather take it to the professionals. Whilst you’re there, get yourself a spare set of bearings and some grease – particularly if you’re going further afield to places like Mozambique where they may not be available. Without a lubricant barrier, the bearing will overheat and fatigue, leading to full bearing lock up and hub separation if not corrected. This can ultimately damage your axle as well.
Some areas, whilst they may appear simple, can be decidedly tricky, particularly in rough weather – like Knysna Heads.
What causes these issues? There are three primary factors. The first is “wear and tear”. Travelling with your trailer causes the wheel bearings heat up. Over extended periods of travel this heat eventually breaks down the consistency of the grease packs in the wheel bearing. The second factor is “Storage”. Trailers sit, often for a year at a time. As the wheels don’t turn, no heat is generated from travel – which can allow condensation (moisture) to enter the wheel bearing housing. Grease degenerates over time whatever you do – stored in perfect conditions, companies such as SKF recommended a maximum storage time of approximately only two years for grease. The third issue is “Launching”. When you stop to launch your boat, the trailer wheel bearings are heated from the friction they experience during the trip. When submerged in cold water, the hot wheel bearings draw water into the wheel bearing housing as they cool rapidly – which can lead to rust, corrosion and grease breakdown. Especially if it’s salt water. Ideally wait for the trailer bearings to cool first. Most modern trailers have bearing protectors which mitigate some of these effects – we still recommend a quick check. We would go as far as suggesting that you check the bearings before your trip home as well.
Safety equipment is key…
There are a number of other small things to remember that will save tears. If you have locking wheel nuts on the trailer, a simple thing to remember, yet drama-filled disaster if you forget to take it, is the locking wheel nut key. Remember to pack your GPS if not fixed to the boat. Check the boat batteries and service the boat motor/s if due – before departing. Remember to take your current safety certificate, your skipper’s licence and any other documentation required. Check all safety equipment on the boat. Add a spare fuel filter if you’re heading to areas with dodgy fuel supplies. It’s not a bad idea to print all the safety checks on an A4 sheet of paper and laminate to keep in the boat.
If you don’t know a particular launch site, ask a local for assistance/advice. Debris, sandbars, and rocks can cause serious damage to your propeller, and even a small nick or slightly bent blade can cause havoc on your engine and transmission. Even if your propeller looks fine, keep an eye on the boat’s performance following an underwater collision.
These are all fairly small things in and of themselves, and a little preparation goes a long way to ensuring you have a happy holiday and many fulfilling hours on the water.
Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team