I have a small-boat business with an emphasis on tradition-based rowboats and rowing accessories and I usually do the fitting-out of hardware at my shop, often requiring that I pick up the a customer’s boat and return it when the work is completed. Recently, I’ve also been offering custom rowing craft intended for recreational use or racing. These boats range from 15′ to 20′, but they are lightly built and must be handled—and transported—with care. I learned early on that most damage to boat hulls is caused by improper transport, launching, retrieval and/or storage. Damage on the water occurs only up to 10 percent of the time. To avoid any problems in transporting boats, a proper trailer was in order.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I chose to survey the transport choices my compatriots were making. At races and boat shows the most well-cared-for boats were transported on Trailex Trailers, with the SUT-350-S the apparent favorite.
The Trailex Company, located in Canfield, Ohio, has been offering well-designed and well-constructed aluminum small-boat trailers since 1966. They have national distribution, an excellent reputation for product quality and durability, and excellent customer service. Their SUT-350-S is just one of a score of small-boat trailers. It is 18′6″ long, 4′6″ wide, and weighs 155 lbs. I have two: one is equipped with a jack, winch and spare tire bracket options, and one isn’t, but will soon have those accessories. The 350-S is designed to accommodate boats up to 22′ in length with a maximum weight of 350 lbs. The lightly sprung leaf-spring suspension softens the jolts of bumpy roads.
I’m now into my third year of 350-S ownership and continue to be totally pleased. The trailers allow me to transport my own boats and customers’ boats with perfect confidence. They are easily loaded, balance well and behave predictably and smoothly on the on the highway. The combination of light weight and good balance allows for safe and effective solo loading and unloading—particularly important for me as I work alone most of the time.
Tire pressure is critical: they are designed for 25 psi; any more will cause excessive bounce when on the road. The trailer frame is intended to be close to parallel to the road surface so avoid canting it with a hitch that is too high or too low. Trailex trailers have a low profile, you may have difficulty seeing your rig in your rear view mirrors. I have a pennant on a 4′ fiberglass shaft affixed to the transom of my own boats. This shows up well in the rearview, helpful in maintaining safe distance on the road and in backing up to launch sites.
In my line of work I can’t afford to have boats take a beating on the road. With the 350-S to back me up, life is good!
Rodger Swanson has been in the business of traditional rowing for 40 years. He specializes in hard-to-find accessories for fixed-thwart and sliding-set rowing, including the bailer featured in this issue. His “flagship” product is tallow, a traditional oar-leather and oarlock lubricant; he is currently the only remaining marine tallow producer in North America.
The SUT-350-S sells for $1,146 and is shipped as a kit or available from the Trailex factory for an additional $100.
Is there a product that might be useful for boatbuilding, cruising or shore-side camping that you’d like us to review? Please email your suggestions.