Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Just when you think you've seen it all in a Saab....
Boating came late in life for me. My wife grew up boating, and my kids all learned to sail at an early age, and living in Ipswich, boating was an inevitability. We very quickly went from having no boats to having five, of all manner of size and propulsion. Fortunately, my son Pascal, spends his summers and weekends working at Ipswich Outboards, so the boats are all tended to expertly. When his Whaler needed some preseason repair, he volunteered to get my wife's boat, a 17' skiff in the water and to install its mooring.
On the day that Pascal and his friends were launching the boat, I received a message that there had been a bit of a problem with the boat half-way between home and the boat launch ramp in the Ipswich River. When I arrived at the scene and made my way through the crowd of friends, supporters and gawkers, the problem was obvious: the axle had broken and the right wheel had fallen off the trailer. Unlike a broken down car, or even a stranded boat, there is no one to help on a Sunday afternoon with a problem like this. Realizing this, Pascal had gone home and devised a mechanism to continue the trip--about 1/2 mile--to the ramp. In place of the missing wheel, he had installed a section of 8x8, in which he had drilled holes and lashed rope to affix it to the axle and trailer chassis.
I offered to drive since no one knew how this would work. Indeed, his 1992 900 was not happy trying to launch the 2000 lb boat on one wheel and one chunk of pine. I had to burn the clutch a fair amount before I had enough momentum to release the clutch fully, and then hoped I could make it to the ramp without stopping. We almost made it. In fact, we only stopped because a boat at the ramp was having trouble and we had to wait while it was coaxed out of the water. While waiting, we inspected the skid. The roping had held perfectly. The only problem was that the 8X8 had been worn down to an 8X4, and the ropes were now almost exposed on the bottom side. When the boat traffic cleared, I suggested that to alleviate some of the friction on the skid, that some of the assembled stand on on the left side of the trailer, grab the gunnel, and "hike out" to leverage some weight to the left wheel. It worked well, so well that all that weight broke the axle on the other side, and we now had a trailer with no wheels.
Look, in a world where boats are hauled by SUVs and burly pickup trucks, it always looks strange to see a little Saab 900 pulling a boat trailer. Seeing that Saab pulling a boat trailer with no wheels, no that's something you don't see every day. So, we fashioned another skid from timber, this time held in place with Thule nylon straps attached with nails, and with 8 young men pushing, and the might 900 pulling we got the boat to the water. Being fearful of trying to back the trailer, we took the car to the bottom of the ramp nose first, disconnected the trailer and then pushed the boat and trailer into the river until the boat floated off. This was no mean feat, and only my the willingness of my son, Andre, to go neck deep in the cold river allowed us to get the trailer back.
A new axle and leaf springs have been installed by Pascal, and when we haul the boat out in the fall, with our Saab 900, we are surely hoping for a less eventful one mile journey.

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