Bill’s Barge Boards
Here is my answer to boats that won’t do as they are told when being recovered on those wet and windy days¬
I’m sure you have been there. It’s time to recover the boat on to a trailer. It’s raining! It’s windy! And the slipway has one of those annoying cants but has no where to stand to stop the boat sliding sideways as it starts to come up those first few feet till it gets past the wheels of the trailer. To resolve the situation, you either have to pull hard on some longish ropes and then the boat, feeling cantankerous, comes over too far or you wade out and get to enjoy the feeling of mud between your toes or cold water flowing over the top of your wellington boots. Ugh!
So what to do. Having thought about it for some time and determined not to get my feet wet, I decided that it was time to put my thoughts into action and stop pussy footing about. My thoughts were concerned with the fact that as you pull the boat out, the back corner (under the transom) of the boat rises up on the greased runners as a single point of contact, until the boat starts to flatten out at the angle of the trailer. At this point the skegs (the bits that project down from the bottom of your boat) start to engage between the runners. Until the skegs are engaged, the boat is free to float across the trailer unless you OR my “barge boards” are there to stop it.
Warning. Please note that any measurements stated relate to MY trailer and MY boat. Whilst the boat is probably quite standard, the mounting of the the boards on the trailer probably are not. So if you wish to put my ideas into action, please make sure you have measured and calculated at least twice before putting your hands anywhere near a saw or a drill! And take the boat off the trailer after measuring but before any drilling, for obvious reasons.
The general idea is to mount two 6′ long x 6″ x 1.5″ planks vertically, one on either side of the back of the trailer, to hold the boat from sliding sideways as it is winched up as far as the wheels, where the skegs start to engage with the wooden rails on the trailer.
Having measured the boat on the trailer, it appeared I needed the sizes of timber shown in the photo. The boat sides do not rise vertically and overhang my trailer sides by about 1.75″ at the point where the inside of the top of the vertical board meets the boat. The vertical board needs to be thick enough to take the strain of the boat moving sideways, hence the 1.5″ thickness.
The dotted line indicates the position of the four 12mm chromed dome headed coach bolts from B&Q, that fasten the timber to the existing timber runner. The dome heads are on the inside and the self locking nuts and washers on the outside. Make sure that the top of the dome heads are NOT proud of the runners or you may score the bottom of the boat.
I have cut the board around the shape of my mudguard. The bolts are positioned about 3 inches from either end and are equally spaced. I have also used 4″ decking screws, screwed from the outside at 6″ centres to further secure the plank to the square section piece of wood. On the outside of the plank, I’ve place 3 x¬ T shaped flat metal brackets in an effort to stop the wood possibly tending to warp or split when left in the open.¬ Once the wood was fitted, I have given it all a good coat of Cupranol.
Its first test was on the slipway at Bathpool on the Bridgwater & Taunton canal. On this slipway my boat always slips right to left and with about every 6″s pulled up, the boat need to be re-centred from the one side you can get to. The left.¬ On this occasion there was a wind blowing from right to left and I had a “crew” of Alison and John Burbery (Snapdragon). John had a line off the nose to the right of the boat, Alison was in her usually place on the left to hold and centre the boat.
The runners AND side barge boards were greased. The boat was entered on to the trailer and held snugly by the boards, whilst the winch belt was connected. We winched up the boat past the wheels with absolutely no centring required, with John just holding the nose straight with a rope. By this time, the boat had dropped to the angle of the trailer on the slipway and the skegs were engaged. We then dropped the boat back in and then winched her out with no-one holding her. The nose was off to the left pushed by the wind but the boat remained in the centre of the trailer and came out again past the wheels with no need to touch her to keep her centred.
The only thing we noticed was Tophyl appears to bulge a bit in the centre and she got a little tight at that point within the boards. Despite that we felt that the experiment had been a complete success.
I have since then moved the boards apart by 1/4″ (1/8″ on each side) by placing 2 x 1.5″ x 1/16″ square steel plates/washers bought at B&Q on each bolt. I’ve also planed an additional 1/4″ measured at the top of the board, down to nothing off by the time it reaches the 1.75″ square timber,¬ off down the length of each board. This creates a chamfer across (down) the board to nearer match the angle of the boat side. This has given it the necessary clearance throughout the full length of the boat. I have also changed the position of my strap fixing points on the rear of the trailer so the strap does not pinch the boards when done up tight.¬ ¬
We have now tested the recovery of our boat on the Bridgwater and Taunton again, the River Vilaine near Redon in France and the Mon & Brec Canal at Goytre.
The Vilaine recovery was on a shallow slipway out into open water with no close land down each side, it was blowing hard but we were protected by trees. We were using LONG ropes to pull the boat from a pontoon at 90deg to the slipway, and through two square concrete posts either side of the slipway. See picture of the starting position, with Grey Owl on the starting blocks!
Once the winch strap had been attached and winching had commenced Tophyl quickly straightened up and needed no further “rope” work. The trailer would however have very quickly picked up the skegs on this shallow slipway. Grey Owl and Snapdragon recovered here with little trouble but perhaps with more rope pulling.
The Goytre recovery used the slipway in the BW car park, which is the opposite of the above as it is steep, with only a short walkway to the left of the slipway. The boat’s starting position was to the right of the slipway but it has to be pushed out past a metal fence the length of the boat. There was little wind. Again, once the winch strap had been attached and the boat was between the barge boards, she remained straight and did not slip sideways, which the boat had always done here before and came straight out on to the trailer.
I am happy now that the boards are performing as designed and commend them for others to try, should you wish to. Obviously there are many more slipways, many with their own idiosyncrasies. My hope is that these boards will make the recovery of our boats that bit easier and will remove the need to pull and push or paddle that might have been required at some locations and in difficult weather conditions.
DISCLAIMER.¬ Apologies but a necessary legal notice. Nether the WBOC or I give any assurance as to the legality, quality, suitability, safety or performance of the design shown in the article. Please note that any modifications you make to your trailer or others are your own responsibility and are done at your own risk.