Safety chains save the day

Safety chains: They are there for a reason. Photo courtesy Randy Randall

Midwinter 2021

By Randy Randall

Whoa! Watch out! Bump . . . smash . . . bang. And there it sat. The 18-foot fiberglass boat was leaning over on one chine right dead center on the launch ramp about 40 feet from the water. No one hurt? Nope. Everyone’s OK. Wha’ happened?

Well, two things. The eager owner had disconnected both his winch strap and safety chain in anticipation of launching his boat into the river. He had not counted on the steepness of the ramp at that particular stage of the tide and good old gravity just took command. The boat slid right off the rollers onto the pavement. Whump! Over the years at Marston’s Marina we’ve seen this before and know how to proceed: Disconnect the trailer from the truck, tip it way up so the rear rollers are positioned under the bow of the boat, and then begin cranking the trailer back underneath the boat, vs. cranking the boat up onto the trailer. Two guys stood by with chocks to snub the wheels as more and more of the trailer slid under the boat. Bystanders helped pull the tongue down while the owner backed up and we reconnected to the trailer hitch. The motor was up and the boat was sturdily built so no harm done except to fragile egos. Why do these things always seem happen when there’s an audience standing by?

Safety chains – the ones connecting trailer to boat, and boat to trailer – are important. We’ve had guys try to launch with the wrong size ball and when they back up, the trailer pops off the ball and tries to roll away. Safety chains saved the day. Getting the trailer hitch back on the ball isn’t easy, either. First we chock the wheels to keep the trailer from rolling. If there’s a likely risk of things going wrong we rig ropes from the trailer to nearby trees or to our forklift.

Even if you’re just hauling your boat out for a quick cleaning of the hull or an oil change, use the safety chains. Everyone who hangs around the water long enough comes to realize it only takes a small mistake to cause a really big problem. Safety chains are just that – for safety. We’ve seen them save the day more then once. Please, as we look forward to another boating season, don’t forget those chains.