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Off My Dock: Belt and Suspenders

Why sketchy trailers and keeping things from one’s spouse are both bad ideas.

April 18, 2020
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Boat falls off trailer while towing
When towing a boat, it’s best to double up. Tim Bower

I’m not usually a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy. I figure, why double up? One or the other will usually do the trick, and I’ve been known to occasionally go without them altogether—which helps explain why I’m a father of five. But a recent file added to the “Learn from Chuck’s Mistakes” folder has convinced me to always double up on security when towing a boat.

There was a hint of conspiracy in his voice when my good friend Chuck Larson called on that fateful fall day.

“I’m gonna buy that Sea Nymph from Tim, but I need your help when I pick it up,” Chuck said, speaking in a half-whisper from what I guessed was his garage.

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I already knew about the 14-foot Sea Nymph Backtroller, which Spellman’s Marine owner Tim Doberstein had been trying to sell for the estate of the late Buster Knutson; it’s a nice aluminum fishing boat, which I also knew Chuck didn’t really need. So, he must have swung a deal with Tim.

“There’s no trailer with the Sea Nymph, so I’m going to borrow one from Tim just to get it home. I need you to help unload it,” Chuck said, now in a full whisper. “I’m going to put it under the blue tarp.”

Now this was all making sense. Chuck keeps certain items, those things he doesn’t really want to explain to his wife, under a very large blue tarp in the back corner of his property. Things like snowmobiles and engine blocks and a Ford 8N tractor. Chuck started with a modest tarp, and as the collection grew, he simply invested in larger tarps. Chuck thinks his wife has never looked under the tarp. She just sees the blue tarp off in the distance. It’s the perfect camouflage.

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Of course, passage from the road to the blue tarp could be observed if his wife were home, and Chuck figured he had a 30-minute window to complete the mission. I arrived at Spellman’s just as Chuck dropped the trailer onto his hitch ball.

“I just got a text… She’s at the store,” Chuck said. “Let’s roll!”

One block east of Spellman’s, New York Avenue intersects Algoma Boulevard at about a 30-degree angle, which makes for a poor sightline to the south. Anxiously waiting at the stop sign, I could see Chuck start to go and then hesitate, waiting for traffic, before he finally gunned it and raced across the intersection. Chuck, his truck and the trailer crossed Algoma Boulevard, but they left the Sea Nymph behind. I slammed on my imaginary brakes as the little boat crashed to the pavement.

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You would think that two grown men infused with adrenaline could just pick up a Sea Nymph and set it back on the trailer. But we couldn’t budge the boat, and the trailer winch was no help because the cast-aluminum bow eye was fractured, which is why the boat had slid right off the bunks. The belt, as it were, failed. And Chuck had not bothered with the suspenders—he didn’t take steps to secure the boat with transom tie-downs.

Read More Hilarious “Off My Dock” Columns

Eventually, Tim drove his fork lift right down the street and set the boat back onto the trailer. The gathered crowd cheered and posted to social media. The newspaper photographer got his photo. Fleet Farm does not sell a blue tarp big enough for this cover-up. And so, we took the boat to my place. And placed it under my blue tarp.

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