Towing hints

New tower

Posted: 22 Mar 04 05:34
Message ID: 20
I'm new to the class and considering going to my first open meeting. I wondered if anyone could provide me a few safety hints for towing. Maybe the class chairman or other responsible person could issue me some instructions.

one who knows

Posted: 22 Mar 04 06:03
Reply ID: 53
Always, always make sure you have a steering wheel on your trailer, which works.

Then, should it accidently come unattached from the car (I've known this to happen twice on the same trailer within a year!), the person riding on the trailer (you should always man your trailer at all times when towing) can steer to safety.


Posted: 22 Mar 04 06:43
Reply ID: 54
Towing a boat the size of a lark is really easy provided you take it easy. Lots of guidance is available for caravanners and is just as applicable for boats (although your trailer is probably unbraked). Try

For some hints

You are required by law to have a break-away chain connecting the trailer to the car in case the ball fails - short length of chain and shackle will do. If braked you have a cable which automatically brakes the trailer if the coupling failsYou are also (I think) now required to have a fog light on your trailerboard.

The hardest bit is reversing you need to first get the trailer going in the direction you want and then follow it with the car - this means you steer the wrong way first - Think what you'd have to do if you were pushing the trailer then make the back of the car do that!

There are rules about overhangs and how they are to be marked/lite so don't overhang your mast too much (I can't remember the lengths).

Best advice - go either to your local sailing club, trailer specialist or a caravan site and talk to someone experienced and remember when towing in narrow country lanes you always meet either a tractor with something larger or an old lady who can't reverse her metro so make sure you can go backwards in a straight line (the most I've had to do is 500 metres through a flood for a little old man) If it goes wrong - pull forward until lined up and start again.

I might have a caravan towing video somewhere if you want to send me the postage?

Hope this helps


Posted: 22 Mar 04 07:21
Reply ID: 55
I am also new back into the class and would suggest an MX5 as the ideal towing vehicle as with the roof down you can see if you have left the burgee on or not.

Seriously though, the AA have a leaflet on towing law which gives you all the overhangs etc.. Check the lights each journey, check that the boat is attached to the car (have dropped a couple and it can be embarrassing and dangerous) and make sure the trailer bearings get a bit of grease every now and then.

Once underway, just take it easy and remember that it takes a bit longer to stop than usual if you have a small car. The speed limit is lower with a trailer and the police get quite excited if they find you in the outside lane of the motorway (illegal whilst towing).

You shouldn't have any snaking issues with a lark, but if you do just ease off the accelerator and let the car slow down without using the brakes. Getting this wrong can lead to pointing the wrong way up the A1M. If this happens get to the hard shoulder and phone the police.

Reversing is a bit of an art, if you are having trouble then your best bet is just to hop out and unhitch (or get your passenger to do this).

Have fun!

Steve Chatten

Posted: 23 Mar 04 09:05
Reply ID: 56
Forget all that - all you need willpower.


Posted: 23 Mar 04 09:09
Reply ID: 57
I tow Larks with my VW camper van (8' 6" high)which is the perfect towing vehicle as you can sleep and cook in it too!
I have the mast flat along the boat with the foot just behind the towball and the overhang to rear. I checked this out with the police and AA and after being passed from local to divisional to county HQ I was assured this was OK provided the end of the overhang was clearly marked. I use a red cloth bag and a flapping length of yellow fluorescent kite material on the mast and ratchet straps to hold the boat to trailer and bungees to hold mast to boat. Lighting board has a central hole which fits over the rudder pin (is that a pintle or a gudgeon?) and a bungee.
This rig has been to Cornwall, Norfolk and up and down the M3 a few times without any problems over towing regs.
Just check the state of your trailer (try imitating the weight of a bouncing boat), tyres and lights, don't overload (keep weight balanced slightly toward the nose) and make sure your AA/RAC membership is paid up and covers you for trailer recovery.

New Tower

Posted: 23 Mar 04 12:30
Reply ID: 58
Thanks guys but I was really after some hints from the class chaiman. C'mon Nigel tell us the story!

The Law

Posted: 23 Mar 04 12:44
Reply ID: 59
It is a criminal offence to leave your double stacker unattended at 70mph. I suspect our chairman has been locked away.

Nigel Scott

Posted: 23 Mar 04 12:26
Reply ID: 60
I'm sure most of you have heard our tale of the my boat leaving the back of the car for the bank of the M5 by now, as my brother kindly recounted this tale as his prizegiving speach at South Staffs!

Seriously though this whole experience was extremely scary, only to be surpassed by the 2 police officers who after crawling all over my trailer like a bad smell had enough amunition to ensure I was cycling to work for the next few years. Luckily for me they decided to put the shits up me rather than book me, but it was a very close thing.

I now have a brand new double trailer as I don't want to ever see the old one again, but my recommendations are as follows for everyone who tows a boat anywhere this year:

1. Fit a strop between your tow ball and trailer it could save a lot of agro. All new trailers come with one and they can be retro fitted at very little cost. They are a legal requirement and apparently magistrates love making an example of people to get the message across.

2. Check your tyres; tread and inflation. If you do most of the open meetings your trailer could be doing 5000 miles a year or more, and trailer tyres are considerably smaller in diameter than car tyres so they get worn much more quickly. The fine for an illegal tyre is 100 and 3 points.

3. Check you trailerboard and lights and numberplate. They must be the most tempremental things in the history of boats, but they can earn you points very fast.

4. Ensure your mudguards are well fitted! It is a legal requirement to have mudguards on a trailer.

5. Carry a spare (which I also think is a legal requirement), and ensure the tread and inflation of this is legal too.

All of these may seem very basic, but when you are leaving very early for an opening, they are very easy to overlook. I can only say from my experience that we were very lucky, but the police are far hotter on towing than they have ever been, and it doesn't take many issues with your trailer to rack up a substantial dose of points and a hefty fine; 3 points and 60-100 a time means a maximum fine of 240-400 for 12 points with only 4 things wrong with your trailer. Given that a new combi costs 400-500, it is worth looking at the state of yours and doing a cost/benefit.

So please do laugh at our story, but take the serious point that it might be worth a long hard look at your trailer.

See you at Frensham,



Posted: 23 Mar 04 01:43
Reply ID: 61
Not me mate! Obviously, I was going to spill the beans, but the commodore of South Staffs thought it was such an important precautionary tale that he got in first!


Posted: 24 Mar 04 10:19
Reply ID: 64
How the hell can a trailer come off a tow ball if its attached properly in the first place? They all have positive catches to prevent accidental release, don't they?
Wot does a trailer do when it's attached to the towing vehicle by a cable or chain instead of a solid tow hitch?
Rear fog lights are only mandatory if the trailer is more than 1.3m wide (I think) anyway, that means all boat trailers!

Posted: 24 Mar 04 05:27
Reply ID: 66
Learning the lessons of history can we add to the class rules: "when towing, boat should be tied to trailer and trailer should be hooked onto car" - for the elimination of any doubt!!

Posted: 24 Mar 04 05:27
Reply ID: 67
Is it too early for a Duckhams?


Posted: 24 Mar 04 06:45
Reply ID: 68
If your trailer is braked the cable applies the brakes and the trailer stops. If its unbraked then its dragged along behind making lots of sparks and noise - don't do an emergency stop otherwise the trailer will end up in the back of the car.

A long time ago I had a canoe trailer where the weld failed just behind the hitch, it made a lot of noise but fortunately didn't break away completely and the AA got the local garage to reweld and we went on our way.

PS the maximum speed on dual carriageways / motorways is now 60mph if towing


Posted: 22 Apr 04 06:26
Reply ID: 110
I see that the April Yachts and Yachting has an article "Are you legal - gudie to towing".

Clearly the lark fleet is still out in front setting the trends with it's discussion forum having covered this topic thoroughly earlier in the year.