July 01, 2013
When The Water Calls ... We Follow


June 20, 2013
New Adventures


May 31, 2013
Storing Our Shiny Red Tug


May 13, 2013
Viva La Difference


May 06, 2013
Swinging Free & Easy


April 15, 2013
In The Middle


March 29, 2013
On The Hook


March 18, 2013
Tinker Time


February 28, 2013
Jumping Into the Mix


February 15, 2013
Time Travel


February 06, 2013
Charlevoix - A Small Town With A World-Class Reputation


January 15, 2013
The Perfect Ending


January 01, 2013
Magical Weather & Mysterious Ports


December 15, 2012
Collins Inlet, Killarney, & Little Current


December 01, 2012
New Neighbors


November 16, 2012
What Makes a Perfect Anchorage?


November 01, 2012
Are We There Yet?


October 15, 2012
CHANGE OF LATITUDE


October 01, 2012
Womens Roundtable


September 15, 2012
Freedom to Discover a Southern Gem


September 01, 2012
Promises


August 15, 2012
Nice to Have Options


August 01, 2012
Go West!


July 15, 2012
The Perfect Boating Vacation Destination


July 01, 2012
Propane


June 15, 2012
Flagler’s Folly


June 01, 2012
Everglades Detour


May 15, 2012
Making New Friends


May 01, 2012
Something Old and Something New


April 15, 2012
Florida’s Wide Open West Coast


April 01, 2012
Life On the Water in a Trailerable Trawler


March 15, 2012
Becoming Second Nature


March 01, 2012
Last Dance


February 15, 2012
Call it Romance or Mystique


February 01, 2012
Natural Wonders Abound


January 15, 2012
Hardly a Care in the World


January 01, 2012
Wide-Eyed Anticipation


December 15, 2011
Winding Our Way to Lake Powell


December 01, 2011
On to New Cruising Grounds


November 15, 2011
Sharing the Love


November 01, 2011
On the Water Again


October 14, 2011
First Impressions


October 03, 2011
Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Fun


September 15, 2011
Getting the Show on the Road


September 01, 2011
Lets Dance!


August 15, 2011
Getting Our Ducks in a Row


August 01, 2011
Summer Without a Boat


July 15, 2011
The Water and The Boater Home


July 01, 2011
One Step Closer


June 15, 2011
Time Keeps on slippin’ Into the Future


June 01, 2011
Made in the USA


May 15, 2011
Making the Right Truck Choice


May 01, 2011
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


April 15, 2011
What Goes Around Comes Around


April 01, 2011
Wishing Star Interlude


March 15, 2011
Helping Hands


March 01, 2011
THE PERFECT BOAT!


February 15, 2011
Weighing the Options


February 01, 2011
Making a List, Checking it Twice!


January 14, 2011
The Science of Towing


December 30, 2010
The Upside of Downsizing


December 15, 2010
The New Plan!


December 01, 2010
Homeward Bound-The Final Leg


November 15, 2010
Somethings In The Water


November 01, 2010
Our Turn to Relax & Smile


October 15, 2010
Gem in the Rough


October 01, 2010
Whats Your Favorite Place on the Loop?


September 15, 2010
Reflecting Pool


September 01, 2010
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder


August 15, 2010
Canadian Wonderland


August 01, 2010
"Low Bridge, Everybody Down"


July 15, 2010
One Day At A Time


July 01, 2010
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!


June 15, 2010
Lets All Do the Rendezvous


June 01, 2010
On the Hard


May 15, 2010
Falling in Love With Key West


May 01, 2010
Helping Women Get On Board


April 15, 2010
Key West - A Repeat Performance


April 01, 2010
Unexpected Pleasures


March 15, 2010
Mom Cruise


March 01, 2010
Okeechobee Bound


February 15, 2010
Chance Encounters


February 01, 2010
Three Nights in Paradise


January 15, 2010
New Frontiers


January 01, 2010
First Time Experiences


December 15, 2009
A Friend In Every Port


December 01, 2009
Dealing With A Temperamental Lady


November 18, 2009
You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello


November 13, 2009
A Cult Following


October 15, 2009
Somewhere in Time


October 01, 2009
Unlocking Our Minds Eye


September 18, 2009
Its In My Nature


August 15, 2009
The RBS Antidote


August 01, 2009
Crab Crazy


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


June 15, 2009
Our Last Leg North


June 01, 2009
Northern Migration


May 15, 2009
Priceless


May 01, 2009
Hello Goodbye


April 15, 2009
Let The Sun Shine In!


April 01, 2009
Dont Worry, Be Happy


March 15, 2009
Bahama Bound


March 01, 2009
What Do You Do All Day?


February 15, 2009
Slow Motion


February 01, 2009
On The Hook With A Million-Dollar View


January 15, 2009
High Anxiety


January 01, 2009
A String Of One-Night Stands


December 15, 2008
Pushing Into New Tennessee River, Upstream To Adventure


December 01, 2008
All Together Now


November 15, 2008
Kismet in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ike


October 31, 2008
Our Love Affair With The River


October 16, 2008
Big City Lights


October 01, 2008
The Adventure Begins


September 15, 2008
Prepping For The Loop


September 01, 2008
The Space Ship


August 15, 2008
Jumping Aboard In Seattle


August 01, 2008
If We Knew Then What We Know Now!


July 10, 2008
The Second Time Around


July 01, 2008
Our Turn For The Great American Loop

   

The Science of Towing
By Kismet, Friday, January 14, 2011

By Jim Favors

It’s been over 20 years since Lisa and I have had a trailerable boat, a 20-foot Four Winns runabout. We towed that boat all over northern Michigan looking for and exploring the inland lakes, camping over night while out on the hook… they were fun times. However, as I think back, I can’t recall ever giving much consideration to the vehicle we used to tow the boat with, I guess the boat was light enough that it didn’t make much difference. Well, that will change for us with the purchase of a trailerable trawler, which can weigh as much as 8,000 lbs.

First, let me set the stage by telling you how we’ll use our trailerable trawler, as this will become a critical component as to how it will be towed. We’ll need to choose a tow vehicle that will be capable of towing between 7,000 and 11,000 lbs, depending on the final boat choice. Our master plan is to use the boat close to home during the summer months. For example: one year we may tow the boat northeast so we can revisit Canada’s North Channel and or the Trent-Severn Waterway. Other summer destinations might include Lake Champlain in New York, the Rideau Canal or Montreal in Canada. Any of these destinations (and there are many more) are within one or two days drive from our home. Upon reaching the planned destination, we would slip the boat into the water and begin a week or two of cruising, then tow our boat back to Michigan.

Engines are important in the towing process, GM, Ford and Dodge all offer a standard, large V-8 (like in this photo) as well as an optional 6.6 or 6.7 diesel V-8 for more towing capability.

The fall and winter is when we see ourselves really venturing out for longer periods, maybe heading south to either revisit a favorite spot or one we’ve yet to explore. This time of year is also perfect to head west through the mountains to get to places like Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona, Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming, or we could head to the Pacific Northwest to revisit the San Juan Islands in Washington State – this is just for starters. I say for starters because this type of boating is new to us and I’m sure, just as the five years of liveaboard lifestyle brought us unexpected pleasures and surprises, so will the trailerable trawler lifestyle. With that stated we are, and will remain, open to what lies ahead, but first, we need to make sure we have the proper vehicle for towing our future boat.

The title of this log is “The Science of Towing” so lets get on to the nitty gritty of the subject. As a somewhat novice “trailering” person I have to say that I am just beginning to understand the elements that will be needed to tow our new boat, trailer and equipment. Not far into my research I found out there really is a bit more to it than taking a good guess at what is needed for a tow vehicle… it requires some understanding of the basics of towing, the terminology and how to apply it to your specific situation. I found out you really do need to pay attention to the details and gain understanding as to how GVWR, GCWR, payload, tongue weight and towing capacity each play a roll in safe trailering.

To get started I searched the Internet and was able to obtain definitions for many of the towing terms at www.howstuffworks.com. I found out that each vehicle manufacturer sets their own GVWR, GCWR, payload, and towing capacity. I also discovered that each vehicle has a GVWR number on a label, located just inside the driver’s doorframe and that there are more numbers to be found inside the owner’s manual. Each major truck manufacturing company also has a website that will allow you to spec out the truck of your dreams. When you’ve completed a form on the site you’ll receive a detailed spec sheet along with a capabilities and comparison report that not only shows you the GVWR, GCWR, payload, etc. of the truck you’ve spec’d out but that of the competition’s as well. I found these websites to be a very useful tool in helping me make sure that we get a tow truck that will actually do the job.

 

This label was attached to the factory installed trailer hitch of a GMC truck, note how it spells out the maximum capacities I outline below.

 

Here’s the definition I found on www.howstuffworks.com for the following terms we all need to understand if we plan on doing any kind of heavy towing:

1. Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): “A vehicle’s GCWR is a specific weight determined by the manufacturer to be the maximum weight of a loaded tow vehicle and its attached loaded trailer.”

2. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): “You can think of the GVWR as a weight limit for your specific vehicle – a weight limit set by the automaker. Gross vehicle weight ratings take into account the base curb weight of the vehicle plus the weight of any optional accessories, cargo and passengers.”

3. Curb Weight: “is simply how much the vehicle weighs on its own, without any cargo or passengers. This measurement includes a full tank of gas and any other fluids that keep a car running.”

4. Payload Capacity: “a vehicle’s payload capacity - the amount of stuff it can safely carry after you’ve filled up the tank with gas and topped off all fluids – is just a matter of subtraction. Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) – curb weight= payload capacity.”

5. Towing Capacity: “sometimes called maximum towing capacity, is the maximum allowable weight that a vehicle can tow. Towing capacity is specified by the vehicle manufacturer.”

The GVWR definition I found on the How Stuff Works website helps understand how the label from this Ford F250 highlights the trucks 10,000lb. GVWR, plus additional information.

 

With the groundwork laid let’s apply it to a hypothetical situation. Lets take a boat that’s 26 feet long, weighs approximately 6,500 lbs, with a tandem axle trailer that weighs 1,700 lbs and an additional 1,000 lbs for gear and fuel (equaling 9,200 lbs). With this in mind, any tow vehicle we look at will have to be able to handle this weight with a maximum towing capacity ABOVE 9,200 lbs.

Next, I went onto the Ford Truck website for a comparison and selected a F250 4X4 XLT Crew cab with their standard V-8 engine in a 156” wb and I received the towing stats for the F250 along with a comparable Dodge, Chevy and GMC. With this truck selected, I found that the Ford had plenty of standard towing capacity at 10,000 lbs. and that Chevy and GMC, at 9,400 came in just above our hypothetical measurement. The standard Dodge truck number, according to the Ford report, at 8.500 lbs was well under our requirement. This is not good or bad news, its just information. It’s what one does with the information that makes a difference.

Here we see a label on a Chevy 2500HD that highlights the GVRW at 9,500 lbs, but also see how it refers to the owners manual for more details.

If we look a little further into the report I received from the Ford website, I found it also shows that by beefing up the truck with additional equipment the maximum towing capacities go up. Up to 15,800 lbs for Ford, 12,650 for Dodge, and 16,700 for Chevy and GMC. By adding a trailer towing package (which typically includes heavier suspension, limited slip differential and more), transmission oil cooler, larger V-8 gas or diesel engine and or larger tires the towing capacity along with a trucks payload capacity, GVWR or GCWR, all increased to numbers that are more than adequate to do the job of towing our hypothetical 9,200 lbs.

What I learned from my towing research was that each towing component, whether it be GCWR, GVWR, payload, or towing capacity, was critical in determining if the tow vehicle was properly equipped to handle the loaded trailer. It doesn’t matter if one was looking at a Ford, Dodge, Chevy or GMC each could be built to handle a specific towing situation. Each of their respective websites gave me the ability to build a truck and then look at the towing numbers to make sure I had what I needed to handle my future trailering needs.

The primary reason for the manufacturing companies to set GCWR, GVWR, payload and towing capacity is for safety. I can recall taking my current ½ ton pickup to get a yard of dirt and as soon as I started driving back home, I experienced how differently it made in the truck handle. The dirt was more than the payload was rated for therefore it caused the bed of the truck to squat in the rear thereby forcing the front suspension upwards. In my case I was putting hardship on the rear suspension, the brakes worked overtime when making stops and the steering was a lot less responsive than desired. The trip was only a short distance and everything worked out but I certainly wouldn’t want to do this type of unsafe driving across country.

A tandem axle trailer, like the one pictured with this Nordic Tug, is typical of what would be necessary for most trailerable trawlers.

If one overloads a tow vehicle and or a trailerable boat, I would think a lot of towing problems with be created. Not only do you have the brakes and transmission working too hard, they could overheat or fail mechanically, therefore putting you in harms way. The same applies to the tires, suspension, cooling system and engine and I have not even mentioned the trailer. Don’t forget that when trailering a rig potential problems would be compounded when towing beyond the maximum capacity rating. So the message I got from my towing research was to make sure your vehicle has enough GCWR, GVWR, payload and towing capacity to handle your trailer, boat and all of your equipment, preferably with enough margin left over for safety.

We’ve come to the conclusion that, just like there was a learning curve to the specifics of a 40-foot trawler before it became second nature, we think that learning the ins and outs of trailer trawlering will soon become old hat and the process for us started with learning the “Science of Towing.”