Saturday, August 4, 2012

Our New Kayak Hauler

As I mentioned a few days ago, Mrs Elliott and I needed a way to easily bring our two kayaks on next week's camping trip. Mrs Elliott found a trailer listed on craigslist that looked interesting.

From the advert:
As purchased: this trailer had been modified with padding, a longer tongue and a crossbar.
Originally set up for a 14 or 15 foot Hobie angling kayak, it was going to need some work to carry two 10' recreational kayaks. But I saw that with some modifications and cleanup, it would work. So I bought it and towed it home for rebuilding.

First off, it was too long, and the tongue was not very strong. I wanted to build a new one which was stronger and shorter by 4 feet--a more reasonable length.

I disassembled the entire tongue assembly (and threw out my lower back in the process, ow), which consisted of two 2x3s set end-to-end and encased in thin-gauge metal rain gutter downspout stock with Erector set-style angle irons added for strength.

The new tongue needed a 10 foot 2x3, but what I found in town were only 8' lengths. So I had to buy a 10' 2x4 and break out my cheap-o Harbor Freight table saw (which had been gathering dust in the garage since we moved here in 2008); ripped the 2x4 down to a narrower 2x3, cut the downspout stock to the new, shorter, length, and braced the whole assembly with heavy 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 1/8'' heavy steel angle stock.

Then I gave the new tongue a coat of fire engine red paint. It looks spiffy.

Trailer with shorter tongue and new paint.

Second, because the turn, brake, and running lights didn't work I needed to clean up the wiring.
The wire harness itself wasn't a total mess, but the grounding was a disaster. I found that the plug that connects the trailer to the vehicle had its ground pin missing, and the chassis didn't provide good grounding for any of the lights. This due to the frame having been assembled using Nylok nuts, which are insulating, and heavy paint which prevented good grounding by insulating the frame members from each other. I could have replaced the nuts with plain steel noninsulating types and used toothed (star) lock-washers to cut through the paint, but it was easier to just add dedicated ground wiring. For the rest, I reused the existing wires, replaced some wire nuts with crimped-on butt splices, soldered some other connections, then secured it all with cable ties. 

Whoops -- looks like I published this post before it was finished! I have some more steps to describe.

Update: Once the mechanical and electrical bits were completed, I set a Rubbermaid* tub atop the frame; the tub will hold kayaking essentials like life vests, dry bags, and other stuff.
The tub holds all our kayaking gear and is strapped to the frame with nylon lashing straps. 
With the kayaks strapped in place:
The tub provides center support for the two kayaks.
This setup is not complete because I plan to re-attach the crossarm and mount two sets of "J cradles" to hold the kayaks more securely and make loading and unloading easier. Though the J cradles have been ordered from a vendor on eBay, they won't be here in time for the trip. Even so, with this setup the rig is quite stable and secure, and will suffice for our camping trip.

While I was at it, I bought a couple of bike hanger kits from Harbor Freight and rigged them up in the garage. Got the damn kayaks up and out of the way!
Update the second: Here's the kayak hauler on Mrs Elliott's Subaru:

Here, the kayaks are held down with three lash straps; a simpler rigging both easier and as secure as my first try. I I added a trailer hitch and your basic 1-7/8ths-inch ball to Mrs Elliott's car. (Parts courtesy Jerry's RV on SE 3rd.) 

* "Rubbermaid" is a word that both arouses me and fills me with terror. 

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