I needed to pull the centerboard out of my Whitehall and make it a bit thinner so it would operate more smoothly. I wasn’t looking forward to dragging the boat off the trailer, setting it on the lawn, and rolling it on its side to get at the centerboard. That job really needs one person handling the boat and another managing the trailer. If I could just lift the boat up while it was still on the trailer, it would be a whole lot easier and I could do the job alone. It occurred to me that I could use my inflatable beach rollers as air jacks, like those used by rescue workers to lift wrecked cars. If I could slip the deflated rollers under my boat and then pump them up, they might lift the boat.
It worked better than I had imagined. The boat will roll—I figured that out when I got some air in the second roller and the Whitehall started to move—so it has to be restrained fore and aft. The pump I used was for rubber rafts and designed for volume, not high pressure, but it was good enough to get the Whitehall raised 7″ or 8″. That wasn’t high enough to drop the board straight down out of the trunk, but the unexpected benefit of using the rollers for the lift was that they cradled the boat while I rolled it to one side to provide enough room to pull the board. All the while the hull was safely supported on the soft, conforming surfaces of the rollers.
All it took to lower the boat was pressing the rollers’ valves to bleed off the air. The boat pinned one roller to the deck of the trailer and I couldn’t lift the boat and pull the roller out at the same time. I tied a bungee cord to the roller and stretched it out; when I raised the end of the boat, the roller slipped out.
There may be more heavy lifting ahead for these rollers.
My chance to do some more heavy lifting with the rollers came soon enough. I use the same trailer for my Caledonia yawl as I do for my Whitehall, and after I got the Whitehall’s centerboard reinstalled and took it for a few outings, I was ready to take it off of the trailer and put the Caledonia on. After I used the rollers, inflated, to scoot the Whitehall off the trailer, it was time to move the much larger Caledonia. It’s too heavy to slide on the lawn, so I wouldn’t have been able to set a roller at the bow and push the boat up on it, but the bottom has enough rocker that I could slip a deflated roller under the bow. After I had pumped that roller up I had clearance under the middle of the boat to get the second roll, flattened, slipped in. The second roller not only raised the whole boat— lifting close to 400 pounds—it leveled it side to side and kept it stable. It took very little effort then to roll the boat to the trailer and winch it home. When it’s time for the Caledonia to come off the trailer, the rollers will ease it back to the lawn and keep it elevated while I get some blocking under it to keep it off the grass.