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Old 04-30-2009, 03:58 PM   #1
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Towing a boat!

I know this is a hot subject and I already know most of the answers but I needed to hear it!
I just purchased a 16 foot 2004 Bambi International. Many of my trips are to go fishing here in Montana and I really need my drift boat. It's a light 16foot skiff. I can easily pull the trailer/boat by hand and if necessary I can balance the boat to a neutral point (I usually have it at 25 pounds negative). I easily tow the boat with a 4 cylinder subaru. Here is the question that will make people turn in their chairs... I wanted to have a hitch receiver welded to the rear of the Bambi. I read about all the separation issues but I also read that longer or older campers tend to have a much bigger issue than shorter ones. I imagine that the frame of the 16footer is a similar design as the longer ones (like the 19 or 22 footer) and it has a lot less hanging from the rear adding weight. Will an other 25pounds cause it to separate? Ok, I am ready to get killed!

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Old 04-30-2009, 04:01 PM   #2
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Wow.. are we really that rough?

Welcome to the forums! enjoy your Bambi...


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Old 04-30-2009, 04:29 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by marchesi View Post
Ok, I am ready to get killed!
Sounds like you are already planning an accident with your new "rig".

Actually, the only question that crossed my mind was, did you check if what you're going to do is legal? I suppose those laws would be state by state.
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Old 04-30-2009, 04:36 PM   #4
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Great idea...just make sure you sack away about $3k for the frame separation repair you're gonna need.

I would encourage you to call the factory support number at:

Toll Free Technical Support Line

I would imagine they will tell you exactly what they told me....just DON'T do it.
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Old 04-30-2009, 05:56 PM   #5
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It is not the tongue weight that's going to cause you problems it is the road shock. I am sure you thought of this already.

When you go over bumps big or small it creates some shock to the towing vehicle. It is that shock that's going to cause the frame to eventually separate from the shell. If your roads were all smooth I doubt you'd have a problem for a long time.

FWIW, I am a truck driver and in 15 years on the road I have never seen anyone towing another trailer with an Airstream. Usually they have the boat on the roof of the towing vehicle.

I have seen plenty of folks towing with their white box travel trailers.

Have you thought about getting one of those racks that you can drag the boat, trailer and all, up onto the towing vehicle ? I have seen a few of these setups, it looks kinda slick.

Just my .02

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Old 04-30-2009, 06:34 PM   #6
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In WI you can do something similar ...If youre towing a travel trailer, you can tow behind it another trailer that must contain either a personal watercraft, or ATV. Theres also something in the law about letting the authorities know what your travel route is going to be...
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Old 05-01-2009, 04:32 AM   #7
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Ciao, Paolo -

A couple years ago a guy stopped to see us when he saw our Airstream and my drift boat at Yellowstone's Edge, along the Yellowstone on Hwy 89 S., 20 miles south of Livingston.

He asked me if I ever towed my boat behind my trailer. I told him "no" I hadn't, and would never do it, for the several reasons previously mentioned here.

Then, he told me how he had just done this for the first time, coming to MT from TX, and somewhere in CO his boat (a raft on a flat bed trailer) started to sway uncontrollably, and he ended up totally destroying his boat, his Airstream and his tow vehicle. Now, he was driving a rental, and trying to make the best of his remaining vacation.

I had posted on this forum about this accident at the time -- you can find it by doing a search if you'd like, and will see more replies all saying the same thing -- don't do it!

I keep my boat and trailer just west of Belgrade over the winter, and will be coming to get them in several weeks at the end of May. When I make the 60+ mile drive from Belgrade to Yellowstone's Edge, I make two trips - one to tow the boat, and the other to tow the trailer. (Ever see what the wind does to vehicles coming down off the Bozeman Pass? -- I don't want to be one of them.)

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Old 05-01-2009, 04:49 AM   #8
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Paolo -

Oh, and one more thing I forgot to mention --

For lighter trailers, like your drift boat, you need to keep approximately 5-10% of the weight on the tongue, and 10-15% on the tongue for larger trailers such as your Airstream, for safe towing.

I've never weighted my 16' Clackacraft LP and trailer, but I'm guessing they weigh about 500# together. (I rarely keep anything heavy in the boat when I'm towing, like the anchor especially, or oars, gear, etc.) And, I know from lifting the tongue and manually moving the boat and trailer, like you do, that my tongue weight is within this SAFE 5-10% range. (Unless I have the 40# anchor hanging off the back! I only do that when I'm fishing, or when I want to lift the trailer tongue up high to clean the boat and drain water out. If you do keep your anchor in the boat when you tow, keep it near the trailer's axle so it doesn't counterbalance the tongue weight.)

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Old 05-01-2009, 04:56 AM   #9
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John- I remember you telling that story a couple of years ago. Scary stuff. Marchesi- I'm glad you asked before you tried it.

That wind is difficult enough on its own. I went out for a bicycle ride from Yellowstone's Edge and partway through the wind started up. I pedaled into it for eight or ten miles, but when I turned to head home it was at my back and I flew!
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Old 05-01-2009, 06:34 AM   #10
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:00 AM   #11
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Towing another trailer behind a Bambi would not work because it's a single axle trailer. Where I live, it's legal to tow a second trailer as long as the middle trailer has two or more axles. A single axle with another trailer behind will cause fishtailing and control issues.
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:02 AM   #12
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Ignorance is bliss, isn't it?

Before I knew better, or thought I did. I towed a catamarran sailboat behind my 73 Sovereign and my 71 Tradewind. The Sovereign ended up with a frame problem but also had bad axles. So who knows if towing contrubuted to that. It sure didn't help. I sold it to someone for a guest house.

My cat on the trailer weighs about 500# so it is fairly light. It is also wider than the AS so you can see it while you are towing. IF I tow it again with the AS it will only be for short distances very conservatively. Mainly I use the AS hitch for towing the blue boy to the dump station.

I think it should be possible to reinforce the hitch and frame so that road shock to the trailer is minimized, but don't know anyone who has done it. Admittedly you are gambling with causing problems on your AS.

If you do an internet search for "boat loader" you will find a gizmo that will load a small boat on your TV so you can car top it.

I figured out a way to have my cake and it it too. I bought a small 13' sailboat (1953 Chrysler Barracuda) and a cargo rack for my pick up and will car top it.

As far as legally towing 2 trailers in NM it is legal as long as the 1st trailer has brakes. In some states the first trailer has to be a 5th wheel and the total length has to be less than 60'. I never had a sway problem. A back up camera would be a good idea.

It can also be fun to drive in a circle and try to pass your boat.
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:03 AM   #13
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In Arizona it is legal to tow a second trailer as long as the first trailer is a 5th wheel. I use an inflatable float tube.


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Old 05-01-2009, 11:31 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the great info!
As I had anticipated towing a boat seems like a bad idea. I figured that it would be very easy to reinforce the frame by adding directly from the tongue a few L bars (keep in mind that I haven't seen the bottom of my AS, it's still in CA). It shouldn't add too much weight and I imagine it can be made to hold the reasonable weight of a boat. However what John mentioned (the accident) worries me more than separation. When I said that I am ready to get killed was not with my AS but by your replies ;-). However that accident is hard to judge, wonder what really happened. I lost control of my drift boat before because I did something stupid (like using the wrong receiver ball :-O )
I haven't checked the legalities of towing a 2nd trailer in Montana but I have seen a few. Not sure if they where single or double axis. Unfortunately on my towing Van I have a pop up top and don't have the option of a heavier boat on top... Bummer! Maybe the porta boat or small raft is the only option (I own one of each)... It seems impossible to find that perfect recreational vehicle or toy that does it all! You just have to have them all :-)
Lumatic, you seem to be the only person who had some experience with towing with the AS and you don't recommend it. Have you had any issues with the catamaran going out of control? I imagine both your ASs are double axis...
Would love to hear more experiences of people who have towed, but maybe these people don't exist as they get discouraged before they try... I am kind of surprised however because it's human nature to push the limits and do things that appear impossible... or stupid. Who knows...

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