We trailer the tug a lot because it is stored at our driveway and we typically launch an average of twice a month, year round. Also, we are experienced with trailer boats, having a total of 10 years of trailering. But, trailering is not for everyone. You have to have the right equipment, be committed to maintaining it, and continually practice the driving skills to be the best operator you can be.
We keep the Laurie Ann always ready. We have two bow lines and two stern lines all in place and are secured in the cockpit. There are four fenders, two bow and two stern, that are secured in place and ready to deploy easily and quickly.
Our Dodge truck has the factory towing package and we added air pillows under the rear suspension to tighten up the suspension and it keeps the truck level. I installed the Firestone Ride Rite system: http://www.firestoneindustrial.com/RideRite/KitSearch.aspx Our truck is four wheel drive which we use every time that we pull the tug up the ramp. The low range gear makes going up the steepest ramp a breeze and there is no slipping of the tires on the wet and often slimy pavement.
A long boat trailer is actually easier to backup than a short utility trailer but the challenge is turning, as the long trailer will cut corners. We always back up using a spotter. Always make wider turns and use more distance for braking. Our truck pulls the boat comfortably at 55 to 60 MPH. If we had a diesel powered truck, we could pull faster and do it more efficiently.
With the system of duties and responsibilities between us, we can pack the boat for a weekend trip, hook it up and be gone in about 90 minutes. Launching the boat at the ramp takes us about 10 minutes and putting it back on the trailer takes about the same time. In our system, Laurie is always responsible for the transom straps and the keel plug, and I handle bow-located items, the strap, safety chain and lights.
We do the hitch work together. I like using an inexpensive alignment system of two tennis balls on telescoping antennas that magnetically stay on the ball and the coupler during hitch up. I line them up and back up until the coupler knocks off the antenna on the ball. I got this from Harbor Freight Tools for about $15.
At the ramp, I prefer to put the finger pier on the driver's side of the truck because it much easier to line up the trailer and truck to back down. The most common mistake when backing up is not pulling forward as far as you can go to straighten out the boat trailer. With the trailer having carpet covered wooden bunks, I have no worries that the boat will slide off the trailer as it backs down the ramp, but I always leave the safety chain on anyway. We dunk the trailer completely in the salt water. If the axle and hubs are going down an inch in the water, it might as well be a foot or more. Then, we float the tug off the trailer. As I put the truck and trailer away, Laurie starts the engine, turns on the electronics and sets up the antennas.
When we put the boat back on the trailer, the system is the same. While I get the truck and trailer, Laurie prepares the boat and shuts down the systems. The trailer is put down deep in the water, I use the guide of putting the truck's rear wheels right to the water's edge and sometimes a bit into the water. The boat is floated on, winched up the remaining foot or so and then the trailer is slowed eased out of the water by using truck's four-wheel drive, low gear setting and it idles out of the water. The boat nests on the trailer correctly every time, even in a wind and a current.
We rinse the boat immediately at the ramp if fresh water is available, rinsing the trailer as much as the boat. The hull is wiped down with a couple of micro-fiber towels to prevent dried water drops on the finish. After the transom straps are attached, lights checked, and fenders secured, we are off down the highway. We will remove and store the cockpit canvas if the highway speeds exceed 50 MPH for more than 15 minutes
The photos below. Left: added electric-hydraulic brakes from Carlisle that vastly improved the braking and stopped the brakes from overheating in stop-and-go traffic and during long downgrades. The side benefit: the ability to brake will going down a ramp. Parts cost was about $900. Center: on the road, the ball fenders are held in place with short elastic straps. Right: Transom tie-down straps - use the widest ones you can get.
Boat Camping On The Trailer
We have done this some but not a lot. Campgrounds are problems for handling because they are typically narrow and low hanging trees can be a challenge. For long trips, we prefer using Wal-Marts or private campgrounds like KOA. Indian casinos are a real option; they are marketing to the RV'er with space, good food and maybe even free.
To use the boat as an RV, bring a 6 foot ladder to climb on the swim step. The refrigerator and Wallas diesel stove can easily be used. We use our shorepower cord with two adapters: a 15 amp adapter that plugs into a RV adapter. The tug's head can be used if you close the sea cock and use the shower head to pour water into the head before and after use. Gray water can be captured by putting a bucket below the thru-hull fittings.
Be prepared for lots of conversations with other campers. Bringing a boat into a campground is a novelty.
"Is there a flood coming?" will be heard more than once!