Finally Got It Wet

 Posted by at 12:59 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 012018

Back in February I found the perfect pontoon boat for me, a 20 foot Bennington fishing model, with four fishing chairs, two in front and two in the rear, an L-shaped lounge, a pop up changing room, and a 70 horsepower Yamaha outboard motor. And the price was so good I just could not pass it up.

But about the time I bought it my back went bad, and it’s been sitting on a trailer ever since. Yesterday we finally got the chance to get it wet.

We put in at the private boat launch in our little community, and with the help of Miss Terry and our good friend Jim Lewis I was able to get it off the trailer with no problems. Then they hung onto the lines to keep it from floating away while I went and parked the truck and trailer and came back to take it out for a ride.

The Bennington is a lot bigger than my 16 foot Key Largo center console but it handles very well, and with a minimum of effort we were out on the water and went upriver a bit. We anchored near the Boston Whaler boat factory and did some fishing. The key word here is fishing, not catching. We got a nibble or two, but that was it. The fish just were not in a mood to cooperate.

Actually, Terry and I were fishing. Jim was just chilling out enjoying the day.

After a while we decided our location wasn’t going to work, so we moved back in the direction we had come from and anchored at the mouth of a little creek that empties out of the mangrove hammocks across from our dock. We have fished there several times and never gotten skunked.

Until yesterday. Apparently the fish who weren’t cooperating at Boston Whaler called the fish down here and told them we were coming. A few stole our bait, probably small mangrove snappers, who are very good at that. But that was all the action we saw.

Okay, the heck with fishing, let’s just go for a boat ride. We cruised south for a while, seeing lots of dolphin and manatee along the way. There are so many in this part of the Intercoastal Waterway that our area is a complete no wake zone to protect the manatees from being injured by boat propellers. Of course, that doesn’t mean a lot of jerks don’t go zipping by as fast as they can. But not us, we are content to poke along and enjoy the scenery.

Don’t I look like the happiest fat boy you know! Remember that look. It did not remain that way all day long.

We were out for a couple of hours, and then decided to head back to the dock, since the tide was going out and the water can get pretty shallow around here at low tide. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, to get the boat into our garage we needed to acquire what’s called a scissor trailer, which cranks down so low you can actually set a pontoon boat on the ground and drive out from under it. This would allow us to get through the standard height garage door, which we couldn’t do with the regular trailer that came with the boat.

I was apprehensive about getting the boat onto the scissor trailer, but it was actually a piece of cake. I unhooked the regular pontoon trailer from the Ford pickup, hooked the scissor trailer to it, and backed it into the water, cranking it down low. We got the boat loaded easily enough, cranked it back up, and drove home. Once we were there, I backed into our parking apron and flushed the motor and washed the boat and trailer down well with freshwater. You have to do that here or the salt water will eat everything up in a hurry.

Here it is with the trailer cranked all the way up and freshly washed. Note the height of the boat and the garage door.

Then I cranked the trailer back down enough that the boat would fit through the garage door, and with Terry and Jim guiding me it slipped into place perfectly. What the heck were we worried about? That was easy.

That’s when we had the “Oh Sh#t!” moment.

We tried to unhook the trailer from the pickup and it didn’t want to come loose. It seemed like the mechanism that locks onto the ball was jammed. We fiddled with it for a while, moved the truck backward and forward a tiny bit, hoping to free things up, and finally it came off.

And boy did it come off! The back end of the boat slammed about six inches down and hit the floor, and the trailer’s tongue was sticking up about three feet in the air. How the hell did that happen?

We determined that while the scissor trailer is great for putting the boat in and out of the water, and getting it into the garage, the placement of the two axles on this particular trailer is too far forward, making the boat too heavy in the rear. That’s not a good thing!

I cranked the trailer down as far as it would go, which means we should be able to pull it right out from under the boat, but no such luck. The weight of the rear end of the boat and motor are such that it’s jammed and won’t move. Here it is inside the garage sitting on the floor.

I have to admit I was not a very pleasant person to be around while all this is going on. I had visions of crushed pontoons and major damage, and no idea how to even get the trailer hooked back onto the truck so we can get it outside and assess the damage.

Doing some research, and making some calls, I think that if we can back the truck up and align the hitch ball with the trailer, we might be able to use some sort of ratcheting strap or something around the bottom of the hitch and the top of the tongue to force it down enough to make a connection. If we can do that and get things hooked up, assuming the boat has no damage to it (and after inspecting it I don’t think it does), we will take it down and put it back into the water, load it back onto the original pontoon boat trailer, bring it home, and park it in the driveway. Then we will see about repositioning the axles more rearward on the scissor trailer to give us better balance.

But only after I talk to the folks at Gerry’s Marina and get their input to make sure we are not going to screw things up even worse. What can I say? Just like when things screw up around an RV, it’s all part of the adventure.

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Thought For The Day – There are times when my greatest accomplishment is just keeping my mouth shut. And there are way too many times when I fail to accomplish even that.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  6 Responses to “Finally Got It Wet”

  1. I’m not sure Nick, but looking at that pic, you may be able to move that front stop forward a bit and it may take the weight off the back just by doing that. The pic is not clear enough and I don’t know how much room you have between the boat and the truck once you do move it forward. Sometimes it only takes inches to get the balance.

  2. We have had 2 pontoon boats and lived on a lake for years. I used a community shared scissor lift to launch and remove the toons each season. I have not seen one on our lake in MI with the front “bumpers” which stop the toon from being moved forward more. Before I would move the axles I’d take a close look at moving the “bumpers” forward (or removing them) allowing the toon to move forward on the trailer.

  3. How about putting railroad tie size beams under each corner of the boat. Then lower the trailer while it is still hooked up to the pickup. Then you should be able to pull the trailer out or simply unhook the trailer since the boat weight is on the boards.

  4. Dave Doug an Greg took the words right out of my mouth Best advice
    One more Suggestion instead of the railroad ties why not get a
    Four wheel car dollies set, they have a V trough (don’t forget rug padding no scratch )that you could turn it sideways
    And they also make hydraulic Jack ups
    Then if for any reason you want to push it to the other side of the garage or reposition it on the trailer you could do it

  5. Beautiful boat! Looks like a lot of fun!

  6. Maybe a scissor jack under the back end somewhere before you unhook to keep it from slamming down?

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