Trailer Eye (Bow Eye) Installation

We have defined the Ericson 25 as a trailerable cruiser, but just because it is fully capable of being a trailerable cruiser doesn't necessarily mean that each and everyone one of them is a trailerable cruiser. The fixed keel version of the boat, for example, is not as easily trailerable as the centerboard version of the boat, which is more common. But just because someone owns a centerboard version does necessarily mean that it is a trailerable version. Some of these centerboard versions were never intended to be trailered by their original owners. That's why some of these boats lack pieces of hardware such as a mast-step tabernacle, which makes the stepping and unstepping of the mast much easier. That's also why some of these boats lack trailer eyes, also known as bow eyes. If you were the original purchaser of the boat, why pay the dealer more money to install a tabernacle or a trailer eye, if you intended to keep the boat at your yacht club, your local boat yard, or your own personal dock? The original owner of my boat was one of those types of persons, as was the second owner of the boat. It was for this reason, then, that when I visited this second owner's personal dock in the Pamlico Sound area of North Carolina I found an Ericson 25 that lacked both a tabernacle and a trailer eye. The lack of both of these pieces of hardware presented some problems when the time came for me to trailer this boat back to my home in Charleston, South Carolina.
Knowing that I would either need to pay a boatyard to unstep the mast or that I would need to unstep the mast myself, I opted for the latter, knowing that I could construct an A-frame to assist me in this task. An Ericson 25 owner that I met on the Ericson Forum advised me on this task. He himself used an A-frame to step and unstep his mast, so I thought I would follow his lead. I finished building my own A-frame shortly before leaving for North Carolina. Below you see it lashed and strapped to my new Road King trailer.

That was how I dealt with the lack of a mast-step tabernacle. In terms of dealing with the lack of a trailer eye, I had another plan. My buddy and I first had to sail the boat from the former owner's remotely-located dock to a boatyard in Oriental, North Carolina for haulout. Then, after we got the boat out of the water and onto the trailer, we could install the trailer eye before heading south to Charleston. That was the plan, and I must point out that we actually carried the electric drill and other tools with us on the boat during the transit. Might sound strange, but I didn't want to leave them sitting in plain site within the truck.
As it turned out, these plans to unstep the mast ourselves and to install the trailer eye in the boatyard, were entirely unrealistic. The transit was more difficult than we had anticipated. We spent two nights aboard the boat, and we had very little to eat, because this journey took much longer than we thought it would. Aside from that, it was October, and it was windy and cold. When the time came for haulout, I just told the boatyard to go ahead and drop the mast. Paying them to do it was worth the price. Below you see my buddy making sure that the boatyard worker wasn't being careless with the mast and the pulpit.
The boatyard owner assured us that the boat would travel just fine without a trailer eye, as long as we strapped the boat down good and tight. That we did. Nevertheless, the boat still shifted a couple of inches aft during the seven or eight hour drive from Oriental, NC to Charleston, SC.
After I had gotten the boat back home to Charleston and dealt with a variety of more pressing maintenance issues, I eventually got around to installing the trailer eye. The impetus for installing the trailer eye was not the need to trailer the boat and launch and retrieve the boat from the water, but the need to bottom paint the boat. If you're scratching your head at this point, wondering why I would need a trailer eye in place before I could bottom paint the boat, then you'll want to read my posting on how a boatyard buddy of mine transferred my Ericson 25 from my trailer to his jackstands. It was a sight to see. The trailer eye was an essential piece of hardware in this transfer.

In the picture below you see the trailer eye that I installed in my boat. It's a big one, much bigger than the average one you might find. It's half an inch thick, and it has a pulling weight of 4,800 lbs. If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you'll see these specifications. You'll also see that it is labeled not as a Trailer Eye or Bow Eye, but as a Stern Eye, and that it specifically says that it is not to be used for lifting. My boatyard buddy assured me that this was just legal drivel and that this eye was much stronger than the specs said it was. I took his word for it, and he was right. The point of my digression here is that if you're planning to install your own trailer eye, it might be worth it to install a beefy one like this. It's strong, and it does not at all look out of place on an Ericson 25.
The first thing I had to do before installing the trailer eye was to remove the winch assembly from the winch stand. Never mind the plastic on the hull. This was there to protect the foredeck while I was filling old holes with epoxy.
The winch assembly for this Road King trailer was heavy as hell, and all I wanted to do was plop it down on the grass after I got it off of the winch stand. 
The next task was to figure out where exactly I needed to mount the trailer eye. Based on the location of the winch assembly that I had just removed, I figured that I needed to mount the eye rather high - closer to the foredeck than to the boot stripe near the water line.
I had marked the hull and was on the verge of drilling the holes, when I suddenly remembered that at some point in the past I had seen some instructions in the Ericson yard manual for the installation of the trailer eye. I stopped what I was doing, went inside, and started hunting around on my computer. Eventually, I found the diagram you see below. It indicated that the center of the eye needed to be 30 inches from the vertical break. When I went back outside and measured and marked this distance, it seemed far too low on the bow.
Puzzled, I went inside the boat and made the same measurement. Much to my surprise and delight, the 30 inch mark fell right in the center of a large backing block that had been glassed to the hull, obviously at the time of manufacture. You can see it in the picture below just above the light. This made perfect sense now that I looked at it. I had long thought that the wood was there primarily to reinforce the bow. For this reason, I had been working under the assumption that I would need to install my own backer block higher in the bow. Now I realized that this trailer eye installation would be much easier.
I went outside the boat and remarked the hull.
In order to ensure that the marks were absolutely centered I ran a piece of fluorescent string from the vertical break to the boot stripe at the waterline. It was impossible to use a plumb line due to the angle of the bow. This was the best I could do. It was better than simply eyeballing it.
When I was as sure as I could possibly be about the placement of these marks, I started by drilling a pilot hole. I wanted to make sure that the hole would be where I wanted it to be in the backing block inside the boat. It was.
After I drilled both pilot holes, I checked to make sure they were perfectly spaced by placing the stainless steel backing plate over the holes. Everything looked good.
I also put the bolts of the eye itself beside the pilot holes, just to make sure things were good to go. What's the old saying, measure twice cut once?
To protect the gelcoat, I put a piece of blue masking tape over the work area. I also used a brad point drill bit, and I set the drill to reverse. Below you see the initial drilling that I did on the exterior of the hull.
To complete the drilling of this first hole, I climbed inside the boat and drilled through the pilot hole. 
I left the first drill bit in the first hole and then began to drill the second hole with another drill bit.
My purpose in doing this was to have the first drill bit as a point of reference. A friend stood by and checked to make sure that the second drill bit was parallel to the first one as I pressed forward.
While he did that, I made sure that I was standing directly in front of the hull and that the second bit was lined up with the first.
Confident that everything was lined up well, I drilled all the way through the hull with the second bit without stopping to go inside the boat. You can see from the picture below that the two bits were very much parallel.
With a little bit of pushing and wiggling I was able to work the trailer eye directly into place. 
When I started this little project, I thought that I would need to cut the ends of the trailer eye bolts with a hacksaw to keep them from protruding too far into the chain locker. As it turned out, the length of the bolts was just right.
The stainless steel backing plate and large nuts fit the protrusions well.
Here's a closer look.
All I needed to do at this point was to bed this trailer eye with adhesive sealant. It was nice to have this small project go so smoothly. Fortunately, I remembered to check the instructions in the Ericson yard manual. If I had not, this project could have become much more time consuming and the results certainly would not have been as certain and reassuring. That this trailer eye and the factory-installed backing block were high quality was soon affirmed when this boat was hauled up off the trailer with this very hardware from this very point.
This ends this article on the installation of a trailer eye on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.