(From the April, 1994, GOFC Newsletter)
It was a wonderful day of fishing. The seas were flat, the sun gentle, and the fish cooperative. Thanks to an extra low winter tide I could drive my big boat under the bridge and into the boat basin at Cedar Key. That way I could use the inside ramp and avoid late afternoon chop on the outside. After uneventfully loading the boat onto its trailer, I start to pull it up the ramp. Surprise -- thanks to the extra low tide the rear wheels of my truck are on a band of slimy algae covering the bottom 5 feet of ramp. All I can accomplish is a lot of wheel spin. Not to worry, for I simply shift into low range 4-wheel drive and out it comes. But wait, my truck is a 2-wheel drive that lacks even a limited slip differential. Now what do I do?
This has happened to me so many times that I have become an expert at getting unstuck. The following are some tricks I use to get out of this situation. However, before attempting any heroic measures I first make sure I have not backed my trailer off the end of the ramp. Many ramps have a sharp drop off at their ends, especially if a lot of boats are power-loaded there. On a very low tide it is easy to back a trailer's wheels off the end of ramp. Never, never try to pull out a loaded trailer if this has happened, because you may rip the axles off the trailer. I saw this happen on several occasions at the inside Cedar Key ramp before it was rebuilt.
If I find I have backed off the end of a ramp, first I unload my boat. Next I try to pull the empty trailer up the ramp. If it comes free, I then back it down the ramp as far as I can without dropping off the end and re-load the boat. If it does not come free, I must lift the trailer frame up, often only a few inches, to get the center of the wheels above the edge of the drop off. Since a crowd usually gathers around stuck trailers, I may have some bystanders lift up on the back of the trailer or pry up on the axle or wheel with whatever is handy. If help is not available, I will stuff anything that floats under the trailer frame to give it some lift -- life jackets, cushions, coolers, etc.
If I am sure that it is simply a traction problem and my trailer has not dropped off the end, first I try to ease up the ramp with as little pressure on the accelerator pedal as possible. If this does not work, I next try feathering the emergency brake. This helps reduce the tendency for one rear wheel to spin -- a poor man's posi-traction. If that fails, I try adding weight to the drive wheels. Most of the time fishing buddy Ed Weston simply stands in the bow of my boat as I pull out. This almost always worked before he went on his diet! If this is not enough, I will get one or two bystanders to stand on the trailer tongue, the bumper, or in the bed of my truck. Throwing some sand under the drive wheels sometimes will help. As a last resort Ed will start the boat's engine and help me get started up the ramp with extra thrust from the propeller. He kills the ignition the instant the propeller clears the water to prevent damage from over revving the engine. Obviously this trick will not work on low slung trailers where the engine must be tilted to keep the skeg from dragging on the ramp.
Although I have never had to do it, you can get a helper tow from another vehicle. Be very careful about what you use for a tow line and how it is attached -- it is easy to hurt someone or damage your vehicle doing this.
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This page last updated 3 November, 1996
Charles H. Courtney (email@example.com)