Sailing my Paradox and country living

Faith’s trailer


When I acquired Faith – my Paradox sailing boat – she came with a simple trailer as part of the deal. But sadly this trailer wasn’t really up to the job. For a start it had no brakes fitted and trailers here in  the UK are required to have brakes if over 750 kg gross. (I’d taken the boat and trailer to a local weighbridge and discovered that with some cruising gear on board the boat and trailer weighed 850kg together).

I could just get around this restriction if I took all my possessions, food and consumables, extra anchors and stuff  off the boat and transferred them into the car, but this made for some inconvenience and a lot of time wasting when transferring it all back on board and stowing it carefully at the launching place. To pack all the consumables into a small boat takes a long time as you have to do a fair bit of experimentation to find the best way of fitting all this stuff .

Another major shortcoming of the trailer was the boat had to be floated on and off as the boat rested on carpeted wooden bunks when loaded onto the trailer. This meant that the trailer had to be reversed down the slipway and deep enough into the water so it could float clear. Recovery after use required the same technique. This method works OK if you don’t mind immersing the trailer into the water a fair way. But would be a maintenance problem if you had brakes –  most modern brake linings are bonded onto the metal shoes and suffer glue failure if they get wet many times. Even without brakes there is a chance of water getting into the wheel bearings rusty wheels, bringing more maintenance problems.

Also, if the gradient of the slipway is shallow, you have to back a long way down the slip to get the trailer in deep to get the boat off . Which may mean getting the rear  of the car wet.- not good if you like to keep the same car for a long while.  You can get around this by using a strong rope between car and trailer to let the trailer run down the slope under the water by gravity while under some control. But then, if the slipway has a rough uneven surface it tends to go off in the wrong direction until it threatens to go off the edge into the soft mud . Not satisfactory and more hassle to waste time, when others may be patently waiting to use the slip. ….. Once when using this method, the rope slipped off the hook at the back of my car and I ended up making a ‘lifeboat launch’ with a big splash and was very lucky that the trailer could eventually be pulled clear of the mud where it had ended up.

But, being the hero that I am, I put up with all this toil and trouble, made the best of things and carried on with this trailer for a year or so. Make do and mend is generally my style.

Then one day, when returning home from the Plymouth area after a short cruise  – a road journey of about 80 miles, I had a more worrying mishap.  I’d driven too fast over a big bump in the road and one side of the trailer axle started to collapse. The wheel still rested on the  road – as usual – but the trailer frame was much lower and the  tyre nearly touching the mudguard.  The independent suspension  unit had split where the rubber is forced into the square tube.

I managed to get it all home by jacking and then wedging a short length of 4 x 2 timber which I just happened to have with me into the suspension . The rest of the drive home was at a slow pace and being very careful to avoid more bumps in the road…

When I  got home I had a good look at the trailer axle/suspension units. Both sides of the trailer, the square tubes which house the rubber suspension medium had started to split at all four corners. One side much worse than the other.  The only viable repair that I could do would be to replace both suspension units. Welding  up the splits wouldn’t be possible as the heat from welding would destroy the rubber anyway..

This was a disappointment for me as the trailer wasn’t very old and had not done very much work at all. It was rated to 750 kg and that was the load on when it failed. I can only conclude that the the thing couldn’t safely carry its advertised load and simply not man enough to perform to specification.

I eventually concluded that there was no purpose in buying a replacement part to do a repair. It would be identical to  the cracked item, so wouldn’t last me long and be a waste of money so resolved to build a better trailer myself. That way I could design it to overcome the other shortcomings and suit my needs better.

So my new trailer is a breakback type where the boat rests on a second frame – a tilting carriage which moves like a see-saw  to adjust to the slope and on rollers so it can be rolled on and off. I can back down the slip until the tyres are just kissing the edge of the water then roll the boat off by gravity into the water. So the trailer main frame, wheels , hubs and brakes don’t get wet.  Only the rearmost part of the tilting carriage is in the water.  I can also launch and recover onto a dry surface if I wish – handy for when the tide is out  I used 2 inch steel angle for most of the frame construction – no hollow steel sections or tubes  to rust out from within. Ordinary angle  can be visually checked for corrosion easily and repainted inside and out .   So no need for galvanising .

As my boat is only 4 ft beam it fits nicely between the wheels of a normal white delivery van. I just happened to have a scrap  Citroen front wheel drive  van in my yard and the back axle was rated for over a 1000kg, so that became the wheels and axle for my project. I used the existing springs and dampers but renewed the brakes and tyres.


The  axle unit after being removed from the van. The rest of the van is still here and being used as a scrap wood store…waste not want not.

The trailer has a tilting bed to give ease of loading . There are metal wheels fitted at the rear which allow the trailer to be moved up or down the slipway after the bed is tilted to the loading position These extra wheel allow the trailer to be inserted under the boat for when loading from dry land.

stage 1 lined up ready

Loading on dry land . Between the wheels shown there are rubber rollers

stage 2 detail

Stage 2 detail . Bow of boat over 1st row of rollers

stage 3 sliding up ramp

Stage 3. bow sliding up wooden ramp towards 2nd row of rollers.

stage4 bow over front  rollers

Stage4 . Nearly on. All the weight being taken by the rubber rollers.

stage5 boat level


stage 5 boat level at winch

And again. Bow secure in snubber

stage 4 locking pin hanging on chain brackets not yet in line

locking pin removed to permit bed to tilt.

stage 5 locking pin inserted

After loading locking pins inserted so tilt bed is fixed in the travel  position.

It’s a few years ago that I made this trailer and I’m still very pleased with it. I did buy a more powerful winch for it eventually and that’s the only change that I’ve had to make. The trailer gives a very smooth ride compared to those ‘indespension’ things which seem to me to give hardly any springing at all. Now I can arrange all my stuff around the cabin before I leave home and when I arrive at the launching place it’s all still as I left it. When I had the old trailer the ride was so bumpy that all my stuff was thrown everywhere as if a bomb had gone off…Also gives confidence that it’s more than strong enough and nothing is going to fracture while in use.

I made this trailer some time ago but I wouldn’t be permitted to now. as couple of years ago a new regulation came into force which stipulated that all new trailers – even simple  trailers must be type approved. This applies even to home built ones. And you have to use only ‘approved’ components , which means those dreaded indespension things which are so bad.. My van axle is approved for use in a white van but not for a trailer although it’s more than up to the job.

So the days of old blokes building trailers in their sheds out of scrap car axles and the like are over.. Not allowed any more. It’s madness. I’m the last of a breed. Ain’t it sad.


3 thoughts on “Faith’s trailer

  1. Jim, That’s a brilliant article describing your excellent trailer. EU regs are completely bonkers with regard to trailers.


  2. Come to the Isle of Man….

    ….the madness is 40 years away yet.


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