The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

My Love Affair with Small Boat Trailers
by David "Shorty" Routh

When talking with others and reading articles at, I get the feeling that there are a bunch of people who really like to avoid trailers of all types. There are all sorts of articles on cartopping written with the terrible dread of a trailer. I have always liked small boat trailers, and have pretty much given up cartopping because small trailers are so easy to use for transporting and storing just about any type of boat.

There are 2 key elements to my love of trailers, the first is my trailer dolly (see below). When I get home from the lake, it is just so simple to unhook my trailer and wheel it around. I find that a 500 lb boat is about the biggest I can wheel thru my yard, and 1800 lbs is the biggest that I can push around the street and up my driveway.

The second is the large gate I built on the side of my house. It is wide enough that I can roll any highway legal boat into my back yard. Depending on what boats I have in stock at the time, I roll them around in various spots, hiding them from my wife. Luckily she can't tell the difference between them, so whenever a new one arrives and that curious statment comes from her mouth "Is that a new boat over there"? I just try to play it off as the boat that was over there behind the other one, and I just re-arranged. :)

Below is a trailer I like to call a "Kayak Stick". It is the smallest trailer I have seen so far, basically just a tongue with a cross bar attached to it. You can order them off the internet. They are very skinny, if you had a very narrow side yard or just a little bit of space in your garage, this would be an ideal trailer.

One of the problems with trailering small and light boats is that most trailer springs are built to carry at least 1000 lbs (rather a pair carries that). So if your boat only weighs 100 lbs, the stiffness of the springs makes it seem like there are no springs at all and all the jarring force from pot holes is transmitted directly to the hull. Making a good set of bunks can help distribute this force around the hull making it an easier ride.

This is a trailer made for a sunfish that addresses the stiff spring problem. The springs were taken apart, and only one leaf was used. One end of it is u-bolted to a cross bar, while the other end is u-bolted to the axle. It is a really springy trailer, and works very well.

When hauling multiple types of boats on a trailer, the distance from the winch post to the axle needs to be adjusted to get the proper tongue weight. Most trailers have an adjustable winch post, but there are others that have a movable axle instead. Like this one, the axle is often attached to a simple rectangular frame which is u-bolted to the main frame or just a stick for a tongue. You then slide the axle assembly forward or aft till you get the proper tongue weight for the boat you are carrying.

Here is a homemade trailer that was constructed mostly of angle iron. I have seen bed frames at thrift shops that could be purchased for almost nothing, have wondered about making a trailer from that.

Here is a good example of a rather flimsy homemade trailer. I was giving away landscaping rock and a family showed up with this hunk of junk. It was constructed of various pieces of trash metal, such as fence posts and parts off industrial machines.

The axle assembly was also of an interesting nature, there was only one spring in the middle which the bed rested on. The bed had all sorts of play and bounced around in all directions. Needless to say, they overloaded the trailer and blew a tire, bent the axle and abandoned it in my cul-de-sac.

Harbor Freight has a number of small utility trailers, you can see many of them in my HF Trailer Essay. The smallest and cheapest of the HF trailers sure gets around, here is one example where a long tongue and cross supports were added to turn it into a viable boat trailer.

This is sort of an extreme example, showing what a little creativity can come up with.

Have 2 board boats and want to carry them together? You can either back the trailer and launch one boat, then back some more and launch the other boat, or just hand carry them to the water since you probably have a 2nd person with you anyway.

Have you ever noticed that huge amount of space between the hulls of a hobie? What a great place to stash another boat. Some people use smaller boats towed behind a hobie as a way to carry their camping gear. Also I have seen a lot of utility boxes and sail storage tubes built onto the frame of trailers. The thing to keep in mind is that everything left in the box gets wet when you launch your boat.