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Here are some key points about trailer sailboats that I have learned along the way. I thought I would share them for what it is worth.

Boating Education & Safety

Education is a must for safe boating. There are two popular boating courses, one offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the other offered by the Power Squadron. I took the Coast Guard Auxiliary course (13 weeks) and my wife took the Power Squadron (7 weeks). They both cover the same subject matter, the difference being that the Coast Guard covers the topics in greater detail.

Mast Raising

Raising the mast is one of the more difficult tasks associated with a trailer sailboat. Really bad things can happen if not done properly. It took me some practice on dry land before being able to raise the mast effeciently and safely. I have included some pictures of my current mast raising   process, and have plans to improve this system in the future.

Mast Rake Checking & Adjustments

See the procedure I use for checking the mast rake and making adjustments to the rig. I find it easier to get the rig set up on dry land and then disconnect only the three forward shrouds to take the rig down. When I raise the rig at the launching ramp, I just need to get the three forward shrouds back into adjustment.


I added flotation to my Catalina 22, as it did not appear to have any built-in flotation. I guess that I am too used to being around Boston Whalers, and knowing that they are ‘unsinkable’. My Catalina is no longer at risk of sinking in an ‘unplanned event’. My flotation project  page shows how I did this.

Restoring the Fiberglass Gelcoat

Years of exposure to the sun does a number on the fiberglass gelcoat of a boat. My boat, at 17 years of age, had much oxidation and that chalky appearance on the deck. The hull, on the other hand, was in pretty good shape. I applied the color restoring cremes and three coats of teflon polish to the deck, and it still did not look very good.

There are a number of "co-polymer" products on the market that are specifically designed to bring back the shine to older gelcoat surfaces; "Vertglas" and "Poliglow" to name a couple. See my page on Gelcoat Restoration for the process of bringing back the shine to a 17 year old boat.


Nothing good happens to your boat over the winter. So, here are some of the things that I do to make things easier in the spring.

Trailer Extension System

See my trailer extension project   page for how I designed a system to allow the brake line on the trailer to extend with the extending tongue, eliminating the need to disconnect the line prior to extending the tongue.

Towing Vehicle

My philosophy on towing vehicles is that they should be rated to tow a lot more weight than that of your boat/trailer. My boat and trailer combination weigh about 3,300 lbs. The trailer is marginal for this load at a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 3,500 lbs. I usually put many of the accessory items (outboard motor, supplies) in the towing vehicle to prevent from overloading the trailer.

Most vehicles made today that would tow this load are SUV’s. A full-sized station wagon (are there any left in production?) would also handle this load. When I bought the boat, our two cars were a Volvo wagon and a Ford Taurus SHO. The Volvo was rated to tow 3,300 lbs., and the SHO was rated to tow 2,000 lbs. Neither of these vehicles met my criteria for towing. We borrowed a Chevy Tahoe for our initial excursions. During the summer of 1998, we bought a Ford Explorer to tow the boat. In hindsight, I am glad that we did not attempt to use the Volvo (see launching photo   on maiden voyage) .

Working with a GPS

A GPS can be tremendously valuable in navigating in unfamiliar waters and/or poor visibility conditions. I have also found that a GPS can be a good tool in determining when to tack in order to reach your destination. Keep in mind that you can determine course and tacking using charts and standard navigation techniques, but the captain rarely has time to work through this while sailing. Therefore, tacking decisions are often left to some amount of guess-work. A GPS can take the guess-work out of this process. I have owned the Garmin 12 and now have a Garmin 72. I have found both models to be highly functional and easy to use. 

Follow the on to Sailing Links.

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