Trailer, Keel Skid Modification

In October of 2009, when I purchased my Ericson 25, I also purchased a Road King Trail n' Sail Trailer. The first two owners of my boat had kept her in the water her entire life, and for this reason there had never been a trailer associated with her. Used sailboat trailers are not easy to find. After a long hunt for a used one, I resorted to buying a new one. The Road King was not cheap, but I did the math and discovered that the Road King would pay for itself in a year-and-a-half's time, insofar as I would not be having to make monthly payments to a marina for docking space. This was one of the best decisions I ever made, for it allowed me to park the boat on my own property, and it allowed me easy access to the boat during the lengthy refitting that ensued.

I'll discuss my rationale for choosing the Road King trailer in another article, but in this one I would like to address the necessary modification I made to the keel skid of the Road King to accommodate the Ericson 25.
Road King, Trail n' Sail, Model RKGSK 24-26TB
The Ericson 25 that I purchased had long resided in the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina. I could have taken her down the Intracoastal Waterway to my home in Charleston, South Carolina, but that would have taken more time than I had available to me, and it wouldn't have been the smartest move anyway. This boat appeared to be in fantastic condition for her age, but she in fact had many issues that needed to be addressed. It made the most sense, therefore, to travel north with the trailer to have the boat hauled out and placed on the trailer up there in North Carolina. Although this was the easier of the two alternatives I had for getting the boat to Charleston, it was not necessarily easy in and of itself. The whole process from start to finish was actually quite complicated and at times stressful. For one thing, the new Road King that I purchased was in Savannah, Georgia, south of Charleston, the opposite direction from where I needed to travel to pick up the boat in North Carolina. Fortunately, I had a good buddy in Georgia who was ready and willing to pick up the trailer for me in Savannah with his Ford F250 half-ton truck.

Below we see the trailer as it appeared the day after he had brought it up from Savannah to Charleston. Another buddy of mine, a Charleston boatyard owner, is checking out the layout of the bunks, speculating on how the boatyard workers in North Carolina will need to adjust the bunks once the boat is lowered into place. You'll notice that the keel skid, as manufactured by Road King, consisted of a pressure-treated board covered with a plastic material. Disregard the plain boards you see to the right of the keel skid and keel bunks. These boards are part of an A-frame that was meant to be used for unstepping the mast after the boat was hauled out.
After spending two nights aboard the boat and facing numerous unexpected occurrences in the transit from the former owner's dock to the boatyard in Oriental, North Carolina for haulout, my buddy and I were at last witnessed the boat being slowly lowered onto the trailer by the travel-lift operator.
The closer the boat got to the keel skid and the keel bunks, the more the boatyard workers realized that they would need to use some sort of dunnage to support the bottom of the boat in this area. The centerboard version of the Ericson does not technically have a keel. Nevertheless, it does have protrusions on either side of the centerboard trunk that, just like a keel, bear much of the weight of the boat whenever it is placed on a trailer.

The picture below gives you a good idea of what I'm talking about. Here we see the boatyard owner removing the centerboard pin. For more on this part of the story, see the article, "Centerboard Extraction and Analysis."
The travel-lift operator tried several times to lower the boat into the space between the keel bunks. The protrusions on either side of the centerboard trunk were not large enough, or I should say long enough, for the boat to rest on the keel skid. The keel bunks would bulge outward as the travel-lift operator would lower the boat. It seemed that the bunks were in danger of breaking. It was for this reason that the boatyard workers grabbed the dunnage. Time is money, especially when a travel-lift is involved, and this boatyard owner was not going to do anything more than set the dunnage in place and lower the boat on top of it. He indicated that there was no need to bolt the dunnage into place, because the weight of the boat would hold it.

Since the dunnage would be held in place simply by gravity, I knew that I would eventually have to pay a boatyard in Charleston to lift the boat off of the trailer so that I could bolt it into place. How else would I ever be able to launch the boat at a boat ramp? Fortunately, I was going to have to have the boat lifted off of the trailer regardless of the loose dunnage, because I would need to reinstall the centerboard after I had repaired it. If it weren't for this unexpected centerboard issue, I would have been facing a big fee for something that I could have avoided, if I had had the foreknowledge that anyone reading this article might have, if he happens to be in a similar situation with a similar trailer, or in fact the same trailer, a Road King Trail n' Sail.
Here's a better shot of the dunnage. I took this picture after I had gotten the boat back to Charleston and was doing some work on the hull, patching an instrument hole that I no longer needed. The dunnage consisted of a 4x6, a 2x6, and a 2x8. For those of you who might be accustomed to the metric system, the measurements, of course, are in inches.
While I was still engaged in my refitting of the boat, my buddy, the boatyard owner here in Charleston (whom I mentioned at the beginning of this article), offered to lift my boat off of the trailer for me, so that I could install my new centerboard and, at the same time, bottom paint the boat. He said that he could do this for me at the end of the day on a Friday. That would give me the entire weekend to do what I needed to do before the boatyard opened back up on Monday morning.
Knowing that this Friday afternoon date was approaching, I worked quickly to prepare the boat (and the trailer) for the various tasks I would need to perform over the busy weekend. First, I installed a trailer eye (bow eye) in the boat.

This Ericson 25 had never had a trailer eye, because the first two owners of the boat had always kept her in the water. My Georgia buddy and I trailered the boat for seven to eight hours from Oriental, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina relying solely on the straps. Despite the assurances we received from the boatyard owner, the boat still shifted several inches aft during transport. Not surprising, since there was no trailer eye and the dunnage was not bolted to the trailer.
My Georgia buddy just so happened to be visiting me again during the time the opportunity arose for me to have the boat lifted off of the trailer for bottom painting. The two of us removed the winch assembly from the trailer in preparation for installing the trailer eye.
This was a heavy piece of hardware. If you'd like to read more about this and other tasks surrounding the trailer eye project see the article, "Trailer Eye (Bow Eye) installation.
With the trailer eye successfully installed and with the boat having been trailered to the boatyard, it was time to get down to business.

Here we see my Ericson 25 shortly after my boatyard buddy has successfully transferred it from the trailer to the jackstands. His boatyard, though close to the water, is landlocked. In lieu of a travel-lift, he transfers all trailered boats (trailered boats are his specialty) from their trailers to the jackstands via the gantry and block. For the details of how he does this, see my article, "Trailer to Jackstand Transfer." See also my articles, "Hull, Bottom Painting," and "Centerboard Installation."
After I had sanded the hull and applied the first coat of bottom paint on Saturday (a full-day job), and after I had applied the second coat of bottom paint on Sunday morning, I went to work on the trailer. This was the first time I had seen it like this since it was brand new.
I decided that I would keep one of the original pieces of dunnage - the 4x6. Notice the curvature in it. This was a result of the weight of the boat being concentrated at the center of this board.
Since the other two pieces of dunnage were inconsistent in their widths, I opted to use two new pressure-treated 2x8s. Actually, this was but a single board that I cut into two pieces of equal length.
Several days earlier, when I was on my way to Southern Lumber to buy the 2x8 for this project, I stopped by Charleston Rigging to get the necessary hardware. Charleston Rigging is the go-to place for those in the maritime industry in this port town.
You can't find galvanized hardware like this anywhere else in Charleston. Since Charleston Rigging is used to dealing with people with industrial contracts, they don't sell anything over the counter unless the total exceeds $10. I had to add a can of PB Blaster to my order to get my total over the minimum.
My plan was to drill four holes through all of the layers of material - the three pieces of wood (the two 2x8s and the one 4x6) that I was adding; the existing plastic and wood of the keel skid; and, finally, the galvanized steel that served as the foundation for the keel skid.
I centered all three pieces of wood between the bunks and clamped them into place.
I had purchased four galvanized bolts, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me like three would be sufficient. I wanted to keep the holes in the steel foundation to a minimum.

I countersunk the holes with a paddle bit. Obviously the hex heads of the bolts had to be beneath the surface of the skid.
I had several extra long drill bits that I had used on other projects, but not one of the appropriate size for this project. I was already spending too much money on other parts of this trailer-eye-bottom-paint-trailer-modification-centerboard-installation project to go buy a special bit just for this little job, so I had to make do with what I had. Therefore, I performed separate drillings of the 4x6.
I also did separate drillings of the existing keel skid and the galvanized steel foundation. The oil was a big help in cutting through the metal with this bit.
Didn't I just say that I was spending a lot of money on this multi-faceted project? Here's one example of how little things add up. You want to cover your new keel skid with bunk carpet, right? Well, break out the wallet and go buy some. You don't want to use just any old staples, do you? No, you want to use the right ones - the Monel, rustproof staples that are made specifically for the marine environment. Add the receipt for this purchase to pile of receipts for all the others.
The razor knife was helpful in trimming the bunk carpet exactly to size.
I put countless staples into this carpet. I wasn't about to have this stuff slide off the board or wrinkle up the first time I launched and retrieved the boat.
The last thing I did was to cut out the carpet around the countersink holes.
The two-pound hammer was helpful in getting the bolts through the holes. As many times as I reamed the holes with the drill, this hammer method was still necessary.
You might have noticed that there are only two countersink holes visible. That's because I only installed two of the bolts - the bolts on either end. The center one I did not install. Just before I drilled through the steel foundation in the center, I decided that it might be better not to do this. I did not want the steel foundation to be compromised in strength, especially since the weight of the boat caused the keel skid and the steel foundation to sag about one inch below level in this central area.
When the boat was lowered back down onto the trailer, the stiff and straight new 2x8s did not think for one minute about not conforming to the curvature of the 4x6 that had long ago given up any hope of not conforming to the curvature of the hull of the Ericson 25 with its centerboard trunk protrusions forming a nub of sorts at the very center of the trunk.
Here's what I'm talking about. If you click on the picture below to enlarge it, you'll see how the boards have conformed. I took this picture while standing on the forward starboard side, looking aft.
Here's the starboard side, aft, looking forward. You can see very clearly here how the weight of the boat is concentrated at this point. Fortunately, this point is well centered with regard to the wheels of the trailer.
Here's a view from the port side, aft, looking forward. The discoloration you see, of course, marks the spots where the jackstands stood during the bottom painting. I didn't feel comfortable moving the jackstands during the bottom-painting process, so I opted to paint the spots after I got the boat back home.
One last shot - this one from the forward port side looking aft.
It was good to have completed this little project in such a short amount of time. It paled in comparison to the more challenging task of sanding the hull and bottom-painting the boat.
This ends this article on how I modified the keel skid of my Road King, Trail n' Sail trailer to accommodate my Ericson 25.

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