Sometimes It’s Better to Replace Your Trailer Than Repair It

When we purchased Summer Dance, the trailer was my biggest concern. It was the original 1981 Trail Rite; well-designed, simple and strong, but it had extensive rust damage from salt water launches. I planned to replace the worst of it but part way through the project, I discovered hidden damage that tipped the scale against keeping it. You can read about the unfinished project in a separate post.

The original Trail Rite trailer
The original Trail Rite trailer

The cost of the additional welding that would be necessary to make the trailer safe made me pause and consider replacing it entirely with another used trailer in better condition for about the same cost. I started watching Craig’s List.

A trailer in time saves nine

I almost bought a 1979 EZ Loader that was set up for a 20′ Ranger sailboat but I hesitated because it was several feet shorter than the Trail Rite. If anything, I wanted a longer trailer. Just when I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to find a good replacement, an ad appeared for a 1985 Calkins from under another Catalina 22. Calkins was another boat trailer manufacturer that started here in Spokane, WA with a similar design and was bought out by EZ Loader, which still has a factory in Spokane.

I went to inspect the Calkins as soon as I could and was pleased at its overall condition. It had light, fresh water rust that can be expected of any 28 year old boat trailer. The tires and wheels were in poor condition but I could replace them with the good ones off the Trail Rite. The bunks also needed work but I could also swap the new ones onto it that I had just made for the Trail Rite.

One of the nicest things about the Calkins is that it is completely adjustable. There’s no welding. Everything can be loosened and moved around for a custom fit. The bunk brackets are adjustable by threaded rods. The rear brackets also have levers that move the brackets out several inches for shallow launch ramps. It has adjustable guide-ons that come in handy for ensuring the keel is properly lined up on its rollers.

Bitchin stripes, man

Speaking of rollers, it has four floating sets of horizontal rollers together with keel guides and vertical keel rollers, a far cry from the puny V block on the Trail Rite. Throw in Dry Launch lights (including frame and fender-mounted marker lights) and nifty 80’s style stripes, and it was good buy at only $300. Next to the brown stripes on the C-22, they look like they were made for each other.

Heavy duty keel rollers and guides
Heavy duty keel rollers and guides

After swapping the trailer out at a nearby lake, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it tows. There’s less bucking than the Trail Rite, meaning the weight is better distributed. And I like the way the marker lights make it easy to see the trailer behind me at night.

To read how I made a custom tongue extension, see this post.

The Bottom Line

Replacement cost: $2500
$tingy Sailor cost: $300
Savings: $2200

Have you been unlucky enough to need a new trailer but lucky enough to find a good one?

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Taylor Fry says:

    I’m buying a catalina 25 and it needs a new winch for its trailer. What rating should the winch have?

    1. Hello, Taylor

      The winch should be rated to handle 75%-100% of the total boat weight, which in the case of your C-25 is 4550 lbs. plus gear and supplies. A winch strap works much better than a rope. A single speed winch is all you need for a sailboat since you want to float the sailboat on and off the trailer, not winch it on like a powerboat.

      Good luck getting your C-25!

  2. Maria DiElsi says:

    Help! My guy and I resurrected a Cat 22 swing keel and are currently resuscitating it! It’s in dry dock now and we have to get it out of the marina. Desperately looking for a used trailer in $400 to $600 price range and coming up dry on craigslist and eBay. Any suggestions !!!!

    1. Hello, Maria

      Where are you located? Someone might read your comment and offer a suggestion near you. Have you asked other C-22 owners in your area if you could borrow or rent their unused trailer? In lieu of that, you might have to expand your search area.

      Best of luck,

  3. E. M. Thompson says:

    I bought a used Calkin trailer a couple of years ago and only recently began working on it. I need to know where the serial number is located. Any idea where to look? Thanks.

    1. It seems to depend on the age of the trailer. For example, mine doesn’t have a serial number stamped on it or a sticker. I called the mfr., who is local to me, and they didn’t keep good records 30-40 years ago.

  4. Brandon says:

    Thanks for your article! I too am a new owner of a Calkins trailer. I’ve never seen the lever than swings out the rear of the bunk boards on other boats. I didn’t know they were used on shallow ramps – we have many of those here! Do you find it to be effective? How are they to be used? It looks like maybe a ‘cheater’ bar is needed to release the tension. I guess you do this before launching, but then have them back in the ‘latched’ position for loading?

    Also, could you show me a photo of what the chains from those supports are supposed to attach to? Mine are just dangling and I don’t think that’s right.

    Ever have any issues with the bow eye hanging up on the trailer’s v blocks?

    Sorry for all the questions. I’ve read your articles for years and just now got a new boat and was overjoyed to find someone else with the same trailer! It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. BTW, mine had a built in tongue extension that works great!

    I really love that your site addresses that not all sailors have money trees! If our family can’t sail $tingy, we just can’t afford to sail at all!


    1. Hi, Brandon

      The ramps around me are pretty steep so I don’t need to release the guide posts very often. I adjusted mine so that they just touch the hull. When I launch or haul out, I float the sailboat off or onto the trailer. The chains on the levers attach to P clips that secure the 1/2″ pins through the guide posts.

      Yes, I do have to be careful when aligning the sailboat onto the V blocks. If the ramp is a little shallower than usual, I sometimes have to pull down on the bow to clear the upper V block and seat the eye between them.

      From my research, Calkins designed our trailers to be adjustable to fit multiple boats. Maybe back in the day, the figured they could sell more them in the same time that it would take to build custom trailers one by one. I haven’t seen another one with a built-in extension so I’d like to see a picture of yours if you could email it to me at stingy(at)stingysailor(dotcom).

      Thanks for reading and questions are always welcome.

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