This harrowing adventure began last fall, the day before we left for down south, when we drove to Lake Huron to check out a boat that David had his eye on, a J30 racer/cruiser called Twilight Zone. We ended up putting a deposit on the boat that day, with the agreement that we would return with the balance and a trailer to pick up the boat in the spring.
Fast forward 5 months: we’ve just returned from down south and begin making plans to bring the boat nearly 600 km overland from Kincardine to Ottawa. The main hitch is that the Kincardine marina lifts all the boats from the municipal parking lot into the water in a single day. The club brings in a crane crew especially and they get paid by the minute. So we have one day—and one day only—to retrieve this boat. The date is set for Saturday, May 14. We mark our calendars and start planning.
We debate hiring someone to do this, but most boat movers won’t go that far, or it costs several thousand dollars. Always up for an adventure, we decide to move the boat ourselves and make a weekend of it. We can rent a flatbed trailer, and the crane in Kincardine can just lift the boat and its cradle right onto it. Then all we need to do is strap the load down and Bob’s our uncle!
Alas, there were hitches in this foolproof plan. And rather than boring you with the details, here’s the highlight reel:
Our truck does not have the towing capacity for a 7,000 lb boat, so we needed to borrow a bigger one. Rachael’s boyfriend, Jevin, graciously offered us his, with a warning that this was a “work truck”, which we eventually came to realize meant “not without its quirks”. The first sign of this was when David went to get his tools out of the tailgate the morning of our departure, but it wouldn’t unlock. Because of the tonno cover, we had to break into it later to take the whole tailgate apart. We also experienced some electrical issues (AC not working on the hottest weekend of the year, power not getting to trailer lights, etc.) But beggars can’t be choosers!
Of course gas prices reached an all-time high the weekend we undertook this adventure, topping out at $2.09/L.
Ever since our boat got impounded in Quebec back in 2014, we have been very cognizant about permits. Since the J30 is over 11 ft wide, we needed a wide load permit. The MOT website is not very clear about how to apply, but it does clearly state that the application process should be started no earlier than 3-5 days before the intended travel date. We went into Service Ontario to try and get clarification, since phoning the Ontario Ministry of Transportation was a dead-end (“due to unforeseen circumstances” the entire department’s phone system is out of service – your tax dollars at work!). We were told we had to apply online, which meant applying for a username and password for the online system, which could take up to a week! We simultaneously sent in an application for the permit itself by registered mail, and an online application for a username, just to cover all our bases. Good thing, too, since two days before we left we were informed that the online system is only for commercial vehicles. Might have been nice to mention that somewhere!
Ironically, we didn’t hear from the Ministry about the mailed-in application until we were already heading home with the boat, and after many emails from them requesting things that were impossible to send from the road, we cancelled our application.
Booking the flatbed trailer was one of the first things we did when we got home from St. Martin. However the week before we went to pick up the boat, Les, Twilight Zone’s owner, warned us that the boat on the cradle was 12 ft tall, so unless we wanted to hit bridges all the way home, we’d need a trailer bed that was less than 18 inches off the ground. The one we’d booked was 3 feet, and there was nothing shorter than 2 feet available close by. Back to the drawing board.
Thankfully, JP, who bought our old boat, Circe IV, offered to let us use our old boat trailer. He warned us that it was just a yard trailer now and would need some work. David spent most of the next week getting Circe’s trailer road-ready, replacing a tire and doing some significant welding work on two of the jack posts. It would do the trick.
We got to Kincardine without issue, but the day of the lift-in, we realized two of the six jack posts were seized and couldn’t be adjusted for the new boat. We spent most of the morning applying heat with the map gas torch to try and loosen them, but they wouldn’t budge. With our lift-in turn fast approaching, Mel started calling around at all the local garages to see if they might be able to help, but it was Saturday just before noon, and most were fully booked, or about to close. We also called around for trailer rental places, so we could at least move the boat and its cradle onto wheels, but everything was closed for the weekend. It was a dead-end. After an hour and endless phone calls, we gave up, and went to tell Les the bad news: there was no way we could get the boat home, let alone off its cradle and out of the marina’s parking lot. It looked like we were going home empty-handed.
Les took the news pretty well, and it was still early in the day, so we had time to brainstorm solutions. After a few hours, Les asked another sailor, Barry, if he happened to have any helpful tools in his car. As it turned out, he had a JackAll. With David applying heat with the torch, Barry supporting and lifting the jack post with the jack, and Les trying to turn the post with a large crowbar and applying a ton of Liquid Wrench, the jack posts eventually came loose! All it took was the proper tools, some serious determination, cooperation, and elbow grease.
We were back in business!
Within an hour, Twilight Zone was being lifted off its cradle and onto the trailer.
As we drove the truck with boat in tow to the other end of the parking lot, we heard a loud *pop* as we tested the brakes.
We’d blown the brakes.
We took an extra day in Kincardine to try and fix them, but we just didn’t have the tools we needed, and no mechanic would touch the trailer since it was carrying a 7,000lb load! We hoped the truck’s sturdy brakes would be enough to get us home safely!
By Monday, we were ready to hit the road. However, as soon as the truck went over 75 km/h, the trailer started fishtailing uncontrollably—a terrifying sensation! The boat was sitting too far back on the trailer and need to come forward about 3-4 inches. Otherwise there was no way we would make it home. We needed to find a way to lift the boat again.
So instead of heading east in the direction of home, we went 50 km south to Goderich, home of the closest boat lift. They were miraculously able to squeeze us in that very afternoon, lifting the boat a few inches forward on the trailer then gently setting it back down, balancing out the load.
We eventually drove home on Tuesday. The trailer felt way better now that the load was properly positioned. We left Goderich shortly after 8 a.m., and arrived safely at the Nepean Sailing Club around 6:30 p.m. We had some electrical issues with the trailer brake lights, which turned out to be in part a burnt-out bulb and in part a truck electrical issue, otherwise the trip would have been shorter.
We can’t even begin to describe the immense relief we felt in this moment, when David unhitched the boat from the truck at our sailing club. We’d made it!
Twilight Zone has now been launched, and once we sort out some engine issues (it’s a boat, there’s always something), we’ll be out sailing in no time!
Our deepest thanks go to Les, Brian and Barry in Kincardine; Cindi, our lovely AirBnb host; the crew at Maitland Valley Marina in Goderich; Mel’s aunt Cyndie; Jevin; JP; and Doug at NSC, without whom none of this would have been possible.
Welcome to the fleet, Twilight Zone!