As a cyclist and motorcyclist, I always drive my car expecting the worst. Nevertheless, the other day, I nearly changed lanes on a dual carriageway before I realised that the van that I had watched in the mirror overtaking me was towing an empty low loader trailer.
I have very limited experience of towing a dinghy. The last on I owned got towed from the place of purchase to home, then to the club where we kept it for a year, then home: 3 trips in all.
In a few weeks, I will have to tow my new boat from Cornwall to home - over 300 miles, mainly on motorway and dual carriageway.
Presumably its a new trailer so it should have a spare wheel and breakaway chain, both legal requirements. Have you got a number plate and trailer board? Make sure the jockey wheel is wound right up and clamped against the chassis, they have been known to unwind and drop off. Lorries are governed to 58mph and that's the speed I prefer to keep to on motorways. That way you don't have a queue of them sitting on your transom. Oh yes, avoid bank holidays at all costs. Relax and enjoy.
On thing no one mentioned is the tongue weight.
Make SURE that the trailer is balanced with at least 10% of the load weight on the trailer tongue.
The reason some trailers sway, is not that the speed is too high, but that the weight is concentrated too far back.
It's sort of a "tail wagging the dog" situation.
In the states, people tow at much higher speeds, and it works fine, as long as the trailer is set up correctly.
You often see folks here towing power boats with HUGE motors on the transom,
but the trailers are usually quite long, with the axle far back -The result is a lot of tongue weight, and the trailers tow straight.
If you're conscious of this, you won't have a problem.
Be careful at T junctions, to avoid clipping a wheel on the apex.
Go medium speed on large roundabouts, watch the trailer wheel and you will see it has less grip than your car. If it drifts out you are on the limit so lift off gently.
Expect slow acceleration and gentle braking, try to keep a constant speed regardless of traffic. Earn points in built up areas by keeping to 30, letting everyone out and breaking before speed bumps going painfully slow, but accelerate after to keep traffic moving.
Downhill is a huge risk. There is section on M5 south after J4A, a steep downhill. Inexperienced towers go too fast, break hard at the bottom, that causes trailer wobble because the car has better braking than the trailer. So its jack knife time or you lose control and bang! There is a warning sign at the top of the hill for towing vehicles. So keep under 50 downhill until you have a few years experience.
Try an emergency stop on an empty, dry, straight road. It's rubbish compared to your car, so adjust for it.
On winding slow roads wave faster cars past you if safe. They will appreciate very much and it takes pressure off you.
As others have said, it's very straightforward so long as you take your time, and every time you set off remind yourself that you'll need more time, space and pedal pressure to brake effectively - I can't be alone in remembering that for the first time on a towing trip when I press the pedal normally and less happens than usual!
I've always tied my boat with the bow NOT quite touching the forward rubber vee mount, that way the weight is spread evenly over all the bottom supports. And I tie the bow tightly forward, and then tightly down too, to minimise any bounce.
Check your tie-downs are secure a mile or two after you set off - that way you can catch ropes that are working loose before disaster strikes. And check your lightboard - they seem particularly flaky to me. I spray the connector frequently to keep all the contacts working. You need a good loop of cable between trailer and vehicle for tight reversing, but not dragging on the ground of course!
I tow my mirror regularly, and I also drive an HGV on a long distance trunking run regularly. so have seen lots of the mistakes other people make too.
Basic things are to check and double check all lights and connections. And the coupling itself should be given special attention, once hitched up I try to lift it off again with all my strength, until I see the boot start to lift, this is because I have seen an unbraked trailer come loose and hit the car!
As said, make the corners kind of "lazy" just keeping to the outside line. It's also worth looking out for potholes, the 8" wheels on my mirror trailer will fall quite deep into a pothole and then bounce back out with quite a jolt. The 15" wheels on my Astra barely register it!
It's really as easy as any aspect of dinghy cruising, it's all in the preparation!
Well, that went well. I picked the boat up from Cornwall yesterday, stopped off at Portishead last night and finished the journey to home near Newark today. No big problems and, as one of you predicted, as long as I kept it around 50mph or so, I could sit in the left hand lane and let the traffic flow around me.
Lots of work to do now learning my way around the boat. Exciting times ahead, and it's all good.