Having owned a boat now for nearly seven years there always seems to be some form of general upkeep required, none more so in my case then with the trailer jockey wheel. One of the first things I changed was from a solid tyre to a pneumatic one. The slip I use has a ridge where the concrete ends and the shingle begins. There can be an issue at times when the tide is out past a certain point,  if the jockey wheel digs in behind the ridge then the club’s electric winches take no prisoners,   and I have seen a quite a few jockey wheels totalled this way. A pneumatic tyre takes the ridge far easier, but also it makes for a gentler run up and down the slip, which to be truthful is beginning to show plenty of wear with pock marks the full length of it.

The problem is that even the most heavy duty jockey tyre eventually finds the punishment too much,  you usually realise it has a puncture when you turn up at first light ready to head out for the day! For my part it is handy there are plenty of friends boats around the yard with 48mm jockey wheels, so its a five minute job to borrow one for the launch or retrieve. Mind you if I trailered my boat any distance I would certainly consider taking a spare along just in case.

There is another problem that often occurs when I’m launching and retrieving alone, the jockey wheel will hit a stone or divot and veer off line – this can be awkward both on the run down to the water and when I’m trying to winch up through the gates.

Being on a tight budget I was getting fed up with changing the wheel so often, especially when they cost around £15 a pop, and I found sourcing inner tubes for them was not an easy task either.
With this in mind I had been thinking of fitting a ‘sand hopper’ – in effect this is a larger fixed wheel that would help keep the boat in line and could also take far more abuse then the smaller jockey tyre.

There are a few market versions available or if you have the necessary you can make one up yourself.

A visit to a local trailer dealer to get an idea on a price for the required parts came up trumps when I was given a spindle that had been made up for a customer who had not returned to pick it up. Although it wasn’t quite a perfect match for my trailer, a little fettling was all that was required and it was good to go. Two u-clamps and a tyre came in at £20, and I found a split pin amongst my bits and pieces.


The actual fitting was a doddle – first the spindle was given a light coat of waterproof grease and the wheel was slipped on.

The split pin was fitted

Then the whole assembly was bolted in place using the u-clamps

The finished job – note the wheel is on the opposite side to my jockey wheel.

The next job was replacing the winch strap which had started to fray.

On the subject of winch straps it amazes me the amount of boats I see using our clubs slipway that don’t have a snatch cable. To put the trust of the whole boat’s weight on a small spring, which in effect is what keeps most winches in gear,   is extremely unwise.

The slip at our compound is fairly steep and I have witnessed boats that have been very poorly launched, and have heard about quite a few other disasters as well.

What happened on the occasions I saw was that the boats were not braked well at the winch, too much momentum was built and as the boat picked up speed down the slip the brake was then stamped hard causing the winch to fail,  this in turn sent the boats flying off the back of the trailer and crashing onto the concrete slip – one was the maiden launch of a brand new Warrior –  to say the owner was gutted is an understatement.

A lot of damage and no little heartache which could have been prevented by a cheap and simple addition.

To my mind a snatch/safety cable to back up your winch should really be a given.

Although I have seen both rope and wire used on winches I would not recommend either, a proper webbing strap of the type designed for the purpose is a safer bet.

Replacing the winch strap is a simple task; most are connected via a pin and then simply wound on.

Kept straight each time it’s used will help prevent the strap from premature fraying and should provide a good few seasons use before it requires replacing.

By Wayne Comben