Summer Without a Boat


For Lisa and I being boat-less in the summer, is like rum without coke, Christmas without snow, Thanksgiving without a turkey. So, on a recent early, summer night we headed to a local beach to watch the sun set, we wanted to be as close to the water as we could since we couldn’t be on a boat. With drinks and food in hand we sat back to enjoy the wonders of nature as the sun began it’s descent over the hills along West Grand Traverse Bay (Traverse City, MI).

With daylight starting to disappear, a stream of trailerable boats started to make their way to the nearby boat ramp, bringing an end to their day of boating on the water. As the setting sun put a warm glow on our picnic spot my attention was drawn to a boat making its way to the boat ramp. My friend Mike and I wandered over to the ramp and struck up a conversation with the crew on board, a couple from Ohio, who had just returned from their inaugural cruise on their new Chris Craft 26. They had smiles from ear to ear after having a wonderful day out on the water with their new boat. I thought to myself, what’s not to like –perfect summer day, new boat, time with family on the water with a beautiful sunset to boot.

Another day at the beach… food, friends and fun with our friends, Mike and Lynne.

Of course, we remained on the dock and watched as they brought the tow truck over to retrieve their new prized possession. As the trailer was backed into the water, it dawned on me that I’ve kind of taken the trailer part of our new adventures a little for granted.

The trailer is such an integral piece of the trailerable boating equation and without the properly configured unit trailerable boaters would not be able to get easily out onto the water.

As Mike and I watched them load the boat onto the trailer and extract it from it’s natural habitat, I began to closely examine their bunk trailer all the while thinking of how little I knew about this important piece of equipment.

Here you’ll see an oil bath hub, located at the center of the wheel.

Ranger Tugs offers EZ Loader trailers as an option for buyers of their boats. I knew from talking with Jeff Messmer, at Ranger Tugs, that the trailers were semi-custom made and they had taken every possible step to ensure there was good marriage between the boat and the trailer.

With that said I was still in the dark about what I was getting in the trailer that will come with our boat. I didn’t know how it was built, what safety features were built into it, or what its weight capacity was so I called EZ Loader in Woodinville, Washington and spoke with Scott for my “trailer 101” class. Boy did I learn a lot!

EZ Loader has been a leader in the trailer business since 1953. They’re headquartered in Spokane, Washington and have distribution and production assembly facilities throughout the United States; they serve the boating community worldwide. So, even though EZ Loader makes trailers for every conceivable style and size of trailerable boat my interest was specific to the one that would come with our new Ranger Tug R27.

We can hardly stand the wait until we hook our GMC up to this good-looking EZ Loader/Ranger Tugs combo!

Scott told me the EZ Loader trailers are model specific for the Ranger Tugs. When I asked what that meant he went on to state that Ranger Tugs had sent the R27 hull drawings to the R&D Department of EZ Loader so they could apply their Cad-Cam program to design the trailer, with the goal of having it marry up to the R27 hull for the best possible fit. With a blueprint in hand, EZ Loader then produced a prototype trailer that an R27 was floated onto and pulled out of the water with. Scott said they wanted to make sure there were no through hull fittings resting on the bunks, that the bunks fit snug against the hull and that the keel, rudder and prop all had proper clearance. With final adjustments noted they were ready for all future R27 trailer production.

This gives a good perspective of how the transom rests on the EZ Loader trailer… this is the same color red we’re getting on our Ranger Tug R27 hull.

I learned from Scott that the axles and tires determine the compatibility of a trailer for a boat. In turn the boat’s weight determines what those sizes will be, which in turn dictates the towing weight that a trailer can handle and in our case, the towing pounds for the trailer will be 9,000 lbs. EZ Loader does this by constructing the frame from I-beam rails, in our case it will an aluminum frame. The frame is then connected by five cross members that the bunks are attached too. Our Ranger Tug R27’s weight translates into a tandem axle trailer with torsion independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and 225x75R 15 tires. These are all attached to the frame where the Cad-Cam program results indicated the boat’s weight would be evenly distributed on the trailer, resulting in the safest towing situation.

I was thinking about the effects water has on a trailer’s axles, lights and bearings when we watched the Chris Craft being towed out of the water. When I spoke with Scott, he detailed how EZ Loader builds their trailers to combat the corrosive power of Mother Nature, especially salt water. All EZ Loaders trailer lights are encapsulated LED lights. By being encapsulated water is kept from getting into or onto the wiring and bulbs, therefore prolonging their life. Scott went on to say that water (especially salt water) plus electricity equals corrosion and by keeping it at bay helps a trailers lighting system last a great deal longer than the normal two-year lifespan of the once widely used incandescent light bulbs.

Other mechanical devices important for uninterrupted trailering are the trailer’s wheel bearings. EZ Loader uses what’s called an oil bath system in the wheel hub to keep the bearings lubricated. Without proper lubrication, wheel bearings get hot and can burn up, preventing a trailer from being able to move your boat. For me it’s all about getting to and out onto the water so I asked Scott how this oil bath system is better than greased packed bearings.

I learned that the wheel hubs are a sealed unit with a double lip seal on the backside (to help keep water out) and an aluminum cap with a viewing window on the outside. The sealed unit means there’s less chance for failure and with the viewing window; you’ll always know where you stand. However, it still requires an owner to have a maintenance prevention routine. An owner should check the viewing window before each trailering event to make sure the oil level is normal, that there is no water contamination in the oil and, if there is, take steps to correct the problem. Ninety-weight gear oil can easily be added to any wheel hub by removing the access bolt.

The tongue coupler is heavy duty, as shown here, and receives a 2 5/16 ball.

I remember when our son Ross took flying lessons, he had a maintenance “walk around” before each take off, and I think this ounce of prevention routine is something we’ll apply to our boat trailing.

Before each departure I plan on taking a tour around the trailer to check the ball mounts and chains to make sure they’re secure, do a visual inspection to make sure the tire pressure is normal and that the oil bath in the wheel hubs are all level, test the running lights, turn signals and brake lights. In addition, a check of the 3-point tie downs (bow and two transom straps) to make sure they are tight and secure would be in order. It’s all about getting to the water safely!

Our discussion moved on to why bunks are used instead of rollers for our R27 to rest upon. Scott mentioned, and my researched collaborated, that rollers are easier to use in shallow water boat ramps than bunks but after that bunks have the advantage. Bunks are easier to use in deeper water and steeper inclined boat ramps in addition bunks give the boat’s hull more even spread support, which is especially important on long hauls. Lastly, bunks are less costly and because there are fewer moving parts, there’s less ongoing maintenance.

Just behind the spare wheel you’ll see the Carlisle brake actuator that helps make trailering with a heavy load safer.

Earlier, I mentioned our trailer will have independent torsion suspension, so naturally I had to ask why this was an advantage.

Scott explained that with four torsion units, one to each wheel, the ride is stiffened because each wheel absorbs road conditions independently. With torsion suspension there is less bounce therefore improving the ride, which in turn transfers minimal shock to the trailer, boat, and tow vehicle.

Appling brakes to a trailer, especially with a load in place, is too important not to mention here. We had the GMC ordered with an integrated trailer brake control system (ITBC). With the truck and trailer wiring harness connected. I can adjust the trailer brake gain up or down from the cab of the truck, insuring the best braking for the driving conditions faced that day.

The trailer in turn has an electric over hydraulic brake system produced by Carlisle, called HydraStar. This unit is the trailer brake actuator that accepts commands from the trucks ITBC when the cab brakes are applied. Carlisle states on their web page that their HydraStar trailer brake actuators “deliver the industry’s fastest response time to provide maximum braking safety for your towed trailer/vehicle.” As I stated earlier – for us, it’s all about getting to our next boating destination safely and the HydraStar actuator certainly will help us out. By the time you read this, the production will have started on our Ranger Tugs R27, bringing us that much closer to getting back onto the water so we can start our new trailerable trawler cruising adventures.