Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Short Work of a Long Weekend

On Friday I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to save on the B.O.A.T. unit that it was going to cost to get Iris in the water. The most obvious savings would be to find a way to avoid paying a hauler to get iris from the house to the marina. If I could find an inexpensive way to move her myself, I could pocket $300. Plans were drawn in CAD, napkin calculations were done for loading. Engineers were consulted at work, construction guys were asked for input, farmers were asked how they would move the boat. Everyone looked at me with some apprehension before offering a little advice, and then saying, but really, I don't think I'd try it.

In the end, Don (of soldering fame) came up with a great suggestion that completely bypassed my initial idea, and gave me the confidence that I could tackle the job. I walked out of the office on Friday completely pumped up. I was excited to give this a go.

Guest's Poem kept running through my head:

It Couldn't be Done

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But, he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn’t," but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

My idea had been to lift Iris on beams clear of the trailer, then back the trailer under her, and lower her down. The lifting and lowering would be accomplished via a beam running athwart ships under her cradle. The beam would need to be around 12 feet long to clear the sides of the trailer, and Iris would need to be lifted about 3 feet in or so to get above the fenders.
Don's suggestion greatly simplified my plan, however, it still meant raising the boat.

When I got home on Friday night I set straight to work at procrastinating so I could digest the plan a little more. I made good use of the procrastination time by staining the last of the teak to go in the companionway.

On Saturday morning, I extended the procrastination time by cutting the lawn, then installing the teak. After that, I "helped" SWMBO apply the name decals to Iris' transom. My help consisted of working the camera, and spraying the Easy-off oven cleaner to get the wax off.

Easy-off on...
Easy Off off... Name and hailing port on...

Happy SWMBO, Happy Iris!!

I was starting to run out of ways to procrastinate so I backed the trailer up to the boat and eyeballed what I was up against. The cradle was sitting 7" up off the ground on cinder blocks. I put a few more blocks in place for safety before any moving would take place. The deck of the trailer was 14" off the ground. I wanted an extra couple inched of "what if space. I would have to lift the boat 9" to get the trailer under her. Incorporating Don's plan meant I didn't need beams, which saved considerable expense and lift demand.

I went into the basement to get the jacks and while there I saw a couple cans of VC-17M bottom paint left from last year. I wasn't planning on painting the bottom this year, but since I had the paint, and it was getting old, I figured what the heck. When a good way to procrastinate falls in your lap, you take it. Here is the boat taped off for bottom pain with the trailer behind it...

I spent most of the afternoon painting the bottom, and then SWMBO suggested we go out for dinner. Perfect! Just when you think you've run out of ways to put things off a little longer, opportunity presents itself.

SWMBO is both clever and wily. At dinner (at a great restaurant overlooking the lake where the waitress was very friendly and accommodating), she plied me with wine until I had all the courage I needed to start the work. We drove past the marina on the way home and counted the boats already in their slips. Nearly 20. A passing comment pointed out we have already missed 2 weeks of the season. I got home and set to work.

The plan was to raise the front of the cradle, then put blocks in at the centre of gravity, and tip the boat forward raising the back. Since the centre of gravity of the boat is further back in the cradle, there would be a longer moment arm toward the front, making the lifting easier if I could teeter-totter the boat.

A jack was put in place and the bow lifted just enough to sneak in a 4X4 on each side...

With nothing under the bow, I was able to tip the boat forward, raising the stern...

Since I now had 2 blocks in, the back of the boat was up 14" from the ground. Now I needed to raise the front of the boat. Back up front with the jacks, and in short order I had the whole boat sitting up 14" off the ground.

With Iris sitting up that high, I removed the blocks that I was sure were forward of the centre of gravity, and gingerly backed the trailer in under Iris. When I reached the forward-most blocks, I set the parking brake, and then saw what happened if I jacked the boat up behind the first set of remaining blocks. If the boat tipped forward onto the trailer, I wouldn't be able to remove any more blocks, but if she went up, I could remove one more row.

Lucky for me she went up instead of forward. I was as close to the centre of gravity as I felt safe going. Time to snug the trailer in and switch the process to phase 2.

Phase 2 consisted of removing the front blocks (the ones in front of the jack in the last picture), and switch from working on the vertical plane to the horizontal. In order to move the boat forward, I would need to overcome the friction between 5,000 pounds of boat on the concrete blocks. Steel on Concrete has a respectable coefficient of friction, but steel on greasy wood doesn't.

Boards were smeared with axle grease, and set in between the cradle and the cinder blocks.

I had made sure all the way through that the farthest the boat could fall was about 2", and so far everything had gone smoothly, but pulling meant a greater chance of error, so I tried to go as carefully as I could. The trailer was far enough under Iris that if she fell off the blocks, she would come down onto the trailer just behind the rear axle. Her weight would push the trailer into the ground, but since the deck on the trailer is very low, the farthest down it would go would be about 3". Things looked pretty dang good.

The pulling tools on hand included a couple of heavy-duty ratchet straps, a 2-ton "Come-Along" and power by Armstrong. I hooked everything up...
At first when I started pulling on the Come-Along nothing happened. Then I heard a "crick" that sounded like something tearing, and it was coming from behind me, a quick look showed that the edge of the trailer deck was chafing the ratchet strap. I put a short section of 4" diameter pipe in to stop chafe, and started again.
The straps all tensioned, then stretched. It was getting very hard to pull the handle on the come-along forward, and the straps were tensioned so that they felt like steel bars. I was afraid that if I put any more tension on them, they'd break and I would catch a 2 pound steel ratchet in the forehead. Then I heard a noise, the trailer shook, and the cradle lurched forward about 2 inches.
This was going to work! I slid Iris forward off the first block...

Ratcheting Iris onto the trailer with the Come-Along was slow work. Much slower than the lifting had been. It was a game of inches and sweat. Out in the night I got into a routine of "Click, Click, Click, Click, Click, Click, SCRAPE" It soon developed a rhythm. Then the winder on the Come-Along would jam, or the strap reel would fill, and I would have to undo the whole rig, unwind the ratchet strap in the Come-Along, and start over.

Releasing the ratchet with the weight of Iris tensioning the Come-Along was difficult to do, and a little dangerous. I inserted a long steel bar into the teeth of the ratchet mechanism on the Come-Along, and a light tap on the release mechanism would result in an explosion of ratchet straps. Every foot or so I would have to go through this process again. Before I did it each time I would look up at the bedroom window to see if SWMBO was still awake. The lights of the TV flickering gave me some reassurance.

Eventually I had ratcheted iris up past the Axles and was almost home-free!!

In my excitement with loading Iris, I hadn't noticed that the block closest to the trailer was slowly rotating, and losing stability. I am not sure whether what was coming up was what the engineering world would call "Degradation Failure," or "Catastrophic Failure", but it was definately one of them.

Degradation Failure (′deg·rə′dā·shən ′fāl·yər)
(engineering) Failure of a device because of a shift in a parameter or characteristic which exceeds some previously specified limit.

Catastrophic Failure (′kad·ə′sträf·ik ′fāl·yər)(engineering) A sudden failure without warning, as opposed to degradation failure. A failure whose occurrence can prevent the satisfactory performance of an entire assembly or system.

As I pulled Iris for that last wee bit, the front block totally rotated out of position, and the cradle shifted down and to the side. Since the boat's centre of gravity was well over the trailer, there was little danger of losing the whole rig, but recovery would be a challenge. Getting the cradle back on the centre-line of the trailer would be near impossible.

About the only thing to do was to use the Come-Along to pull her forward as far as I could, and then put it on the side of the trailer to pull the cradle back on centre. Everything looked mighty ugly as I attached the Come-Along to the cradle.

With the Come-Along I managed to pull the cradle up another 6" or so, then a second disaster struck. The tension release on the come-along broke. The tool was seized up under load with no way to release it. I was dismayed. Looking around, I saw that the only way to release the tension would be to pop the ratchet strap that was across the front of the cradle open. Since it was under the same tension as the Come-Along, but was aimed to pop toward me, I was a lot more nervous about releasing it.
Very gingerly I opened the handle, and left it just shy of the release position, then with a steel bar I reached over and tapped it. All the fury of the built up tension released and the bar and strap flew halfway up the trailer. I was fine, the boat was on the trailer, albeit somewhat precariously, and I wasn't sure what my next step should be.
I looked at my watch. It was 1:30 in the morning, I had been working at this since around 7:00 PM. I was tired. I knew I wasn't thinking straight anymore and things were breaking.
They say the Darkest hour comes right before the dawn, (Thanks JC!) so I decided to sleep through that hour rather than see what could go wrong next. I went in and called it a night.
The next morning I came out to survey the damage. It was bad, but not awful. Nothing was broken and I could still get the boat on the trailer. In the night I had come up with a new way to get the boat straight and up into position. I would put a 4X4 behind the trailer, wedged into the frame of the cradle. By reversing the van, the end of the post that was in the ground would stay put, and push the cradle up higher onto the trailer. It was a great theory, but the bar just slid out of position when I reversed the van, plus the trailer was so low, it just dug into the driveway. I needed another plan.
The way I saw things only 3 possibilities would work to get the boat in position:
Lift and place
I had no way to push the cradle into place since my 4X4 idea hadn't worked. The cradle was in a position where the jacks were useless to me, so lifting was out. That's too bad since they were so great the night before. Pulling was impossible since I had broken the Come-Along. I rubbed my chin and looked around.
SWMBO's van was in the driveway... I wonder if it could pull. Certainly it wouldn't pull straight ahead since I couldn't unhook the trailer, but I needed to pull to the side anyway to straighten out the cradle.
Making sure that SWMBO was no place nearby, I checked out the underside of her van. No tow hooks and 100% sheet metal. Not really trustworthy for the task at hand. Damn. Next to the van was the Volvo.
The Volvo was bought as my "fun car" and when it runs its great, sadly it spends more time in the shop than on the road, but it was running well right now. Hmmm. Heavy steel frame, a tow hook underneath... enough horsepower to get the job done... maybe. I grabbed my keys and drove it down beside the boat.
The nice thing about using the Volvo was that I could put the top down and get great visibility for the task at hand. After a quick session with vector addition to figure out how the forces would spin the cradle, and I hooked one end of the towrope to the car and the other to the cradle at just the right spot, and eased on the throttle...
The strap tensioned, then Iris jumped forward, right into position. She was loaded up and ready to go. we brought the tire pressure on the trailer up from the 30 pounds that was in them to the 50 Pound maximum printed on the sidewalls, and the trailer levelled out. Looks like we're ready for the road.

To complete the words of Guest:

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "couldn’t be done," and you’ll do it.


  1. Well you sure do know how to tell a story. I knew it would be okay, cause SWMBO didn't sound homicidal on Sunday morning.

    So I would suggest a chain fall next year, its my experience that they are a little easier on the operator and stronger than the come along.

  2. swmbo? I assume that means your wife, but what does the accronym stand for?

    BTW How does your mini van pull the boat? I have a 82 sr/sk cat that I'm looking for a tow vehicle for.

  3. Hi Orrin

    SWMBO stands for She Who Must Be Obeyed - Actually she loves me and puts up with a lot, and her commands are usually for my preservation.

    If you read my next post (By Land and By Sea) you will see my exact thoughts on pullin gth eboat with the Astrovan. The short answer is "NEVER AGAIN!".


Please take a minute to share your thoughts!