THE    R - 22    U N I - M A T I C    T R A I L E R

       You may wonder why we are taking pride in something we do not build ourselves.

We wanted a trailer manufacturer whose goal matched ours:  To build the best.   Triad  of NC has been rated by Practical Sailor (the sailors’ Consumer Reports) as one of the very best.  And we wanted a trailer manufacturer who would be responsive to our design input.  As lifetime tailer sailors, painfully it has become clear to us that trailers can be detrimental to the well being of boats and people; the only prescription being exceptional design and construction, hang the cost  -  Or, modify the cost, as a function of why you want a trailer in the first place:  For storage at the marina or in the back yard?  For an occasional short run to a local ramp?  Or for a trip across the Rockies?  A used or recycled Rhodes trailer from GB’s Trailer Corral may be the low cost solution.   With trailers not adding a thing to sailing quality, we do not think you should even own such a collection of metal, wire and rubber, where idle time equal deterioration - unless a trailer is a necessity for your style of water life.   



        Talk of trailers invariably brings two images to mind:  One, a cartoon:  The new family rig being driven dow the ramp, car first, with the rest of the family running after, shouting, “NO. No. Not that way”.   The other I actually witnessed:  A young man standing in a boat, after a triumphant struggle to get the boat centered on the trailer, shouting, “OK.  Take it away” .. and flipping backwards over the transom into the water as the driver shifts into gear and takes off like a shot.  It gets back to the old saying “You can lead a trailer to water but can you make it launch and retrieve like a good trailer should?”.

        The Rhodes successful trailer design is the result of some brilliant deductions, an old Brit movie called “Breaking the Sound Barrier” and the survival of dumb mistakes.  The first test was mid-winter in Wichita, Kansas with a sinking boat that put time pressure on retrieval.  This test proved: a) Sailboats with accidental water ballast cannot easily be winched onto tilt bed type trailers and b) Legs can only stand 6 seconds in ice water before they stop functioning. Accordingly, the next test was conducted at the ramp in the middle of downtown Hollywood, Florida.

        The second test proved that for 22 foot combination keel centerboard sailboats, the simpler sail, motor or float on trailer bunk design is the way to go when the goal is single handed retrieving in minimal light.  Post sundown tries suggested that a trailer extension tongue would be a 10 foot step in the right direction; also a coughing car’s cure for submerged exhaust pipes.  And that single handed centering could be a chore.

        Pilots attempting to break the sound barrier in that old referenced movie, dove their planes to earth to get up enough speed.  But, through the barrier, pulling back on the joy stick was terminal.  Test pilot population was rapidly thinning until one desperate lad pushed his stick in the unconventional direction.  His obverse thinking saved the day for him - and for us.  Naturally we had been raising the centerboard before sailing onto the trailer. In respect for lost pilots we would lower it.  So the scene shifted to New Milford, CT where funneled guides, along with a single, strategically located roller, were added.  All we had to do was approach the trailer within the 5 foot wide opening of the submerged funneling trailer guides welcoming the fully lowered center board.  The trailer’s special single roller raised the centerboard on automated cue and the trailer’s vertical keel guides took charge.  Above water an unusual extended fiberglass carpeted socket on the trailer bow post, completed the bow/trailer centering task.


        Launching with the Rhodes Uni-Matic trailer is even faster. You may have noticed  that as a boat leaves a trailer the boat levels while the trailer assumes the incline angle of the ramp.  This alteration of the spacial relation between boat to trailer caused the bow eye to hang up on the trailer bow socket, aborting our real time test launch, so back to the design board.  The result was an adjusting bow arm that pulls clear of the boat before launch time.  The 10 foot extension tongue allows the boat’s transom to touch the water and start to float - it just takes this small lift of the transom and then a light applying of the car’s brakes does the rest.  The driver does not leave the car but the boat leaves the trailer all by itself.  If you are doing this single handed it is a good idea to have a slack line from boat to dock or to the trailer bow post - or be in your bathing suit.  The launch can be swift and the momentum great.  We once had a helper hold on to the boat line as he ran along the dock, keeping up with the self launching boat, not prepared for the boats’ momentum as it went beyond the end of the dock taking him galloping off into thin air and a wet landing. Rhodes launching is now so fast that ramp kibitzers who blink, miss it.

        Still remaining were a few lesser design needs.  Anyone who recognized them, could resolve them.  We take no credit for the solutions, only for employing them.  Anything on wheels rides better with a lower center of gravity.  So a dropped axle was used.  Larger diameter wheels make fewer revolutions per mile so last longer - their bearings last much longer than the bearings in the smaller size wheels seen on so many boat trailers.  Witness all those disabled rigs you see along the highways.   The best of systems still generate some heat.  Sudden submerging cools hubs creates a vacuum that sucks in water.  So we added pressure grease caps.  Bolted on fenders can loosen and fall off so we welded them on.  Aluminum frames are expensive and have to be massive to equal the strength of steel.  But steel rusts.  We watched one trailer, made with closed, boxed type framing, slowly rust away, inside out, until all the steel was gone.  All that remained was painted rust flakes.  And when the boat realized it was sitting on paint, it dropped to its keel.  So we went to open channel frames for easy maintenance and easy to spot finish repairs, if ever needed.  Better still, now all new Rhodes trailers are sent out for full galvanizing. 

            But re-designing never ends.  The rains stopped for many weeks.  Water levels fell all over the land.  At a Lake Erie Boat Show the ramp ran out before it reached enough water for our usual rapid fire car brake launching.  Show management, in true show must go on spirit, attached a line to the Rhodes super strong transom eyes and their small tug boat pulled the Rhodes off its trailer into the unusually low lake.  At the close of the show, when I asked how they planned to get me back on the trailer, they politely told me, that was my problem.

            I hung around watching the motor boats leaving the show.  They were struggling a bit but unlike sailboats, they did not have to float their boats onto their trailer.  They simply went further off shore, raced engines and, flew as far as they could onto the trailer - then winched the boat the rest of the way.  I had no option but to then and there design the Rhodes new power on option.  I purchased some slippery plastic sections and screwed them onto the trailer bunks; removed the standard smaller trailer winch in favor a much heavier duty model, took the trailer down the ramp just short of the wheels dropping off the end,  motored the Rhodes way beyond my normal landing approach, opened up the throttle, closed my eyes - and went for it.   It worked.   The winch then got the boat far enough onto the trailer to allow pulling the rig onto the level parking field where the winch then moved the boat into its normal trailing position.

            We do not expect you to be facing such extreme ramp conditions but for those who do trail a lot and would like the luxury of our motor boat inspired power on option, it is now available with an electric winch.  The trailer comes with the easy sliding plastic bunk strips and an electric trailer bow post winch that lets you stand on the deck and control the boat’s being pulled into position.  Cool stuff that will increase the number of ramps that will now work for you.

            Now that we have sold you on the Rhodes Uni-Matic trailer, our advice is to not buy a trailer (unless you really need one) since, if ever you do need a trailer down the road, you can always get a used or new one to fit your settled-down-to-sailing agenda.





A nervous new Rhodie reports back to old time Rhodies about his first launch by starting off answering a question: “New or recycled?”  “New, but I saw a recycled one at the plant and you can’t tell the difference. It took me three days to launch because people kept coming over to see the boat, crawl through it, admire it, etc.  I felt like I was displaying her at a boat show.  The launch went smoothly; we didn’t even need the extension.  It was a bit unnerving as somehow just about everyone in our condo development got wind of the launch and either showed up at the ramp or lined the sides of the marina as I motored to the slip.  I thought I was a float in a parade.  We stepped the mast on the water and it came up without a hitch.                             

First sail was a bit sloppy but the boat sailed like a dream despite my ineptitude   My wife and I could handle the tiller with just a finger.  I completely forgot to lower the center board until we had been out a couple of hours.  So much fun.  We’ve been sailing at every opportunity.  I was hesitant (afraid) to let the full 175 out during the first three or so sails.  But, then I finally got up the nerve, and, wow.  It is exhilarating !  I can’t believe how well this boat sails.  It seems so well balanced.  During our last sail (Sunday) I used the captain’s seats for the first time.  Now that’s living.   My wife has really taken to sailing and is enjoying it very much.  I think she had a worse case scenario in her mind but has been pleasantly surprised by the stability and comfort of the boat and the pure fun of sailing.”


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