Having a huge shell trailer is nice when you have a lot of boats to haul, but getting that top rack loaded is a pain no matter how tall your biggest athletes are. There are probably as many ways to solve this problem out there as there are programs that own big trailers: we have seen repurposed milk crates
, stacking wooden steps that slickly leave room in the bed for oars and riggers, and lightweight aluminum platforms you can hang on the side of the trailer at loading time. A few years back, one trailer builder offered a built-in electric lift system that was pretty cool. There is even a cleverly designed trailer out there with sides that flip down to become platforms the athletes can stand on to get those last few inches of lift that loading the "way top" requires.
With all that great top-rack-problem-solving out there, we were surprised to come across a trick as novel as it is a no-brainer: use actual ladders!
That’s right, no overthinking here, despite the fact that it was some pretty smart folks up at the Riverside Boat Club who came up with this "Occam’s razor" of a hack. The RBC rowers’ simple solution? Use a standard ladder to get a leg up, and as a bonus that is a bit of genius the ladders will lie flat while you travel and take up way less room than steps or crates. Ladders also let you skip any of the major welding or permanent trailer modification that some other loading work-arounds might require.
To keep this simple hack safe, there is a bit of tweaking required: each ladder has a clever bracket attached that allows you to quickly secure it into the open end of the lower racks. The ladders don't even need to be full length: when you consider that you really only need to be up one or two rungs to get the job done, even a short ladder will give you more than enough of a leg up.
Another bonus? Since these ladders attach right at the rack and are "outboard," you can use them to load the top even if you already have the lower racks loaded with smaller boats, which can be key for a club loading up after a long regatta. Instead of keeping those low racks open so you can climb on them to load the big boats that race last but still need to get put on the way top, you can load boats as they finish and still get boats up over the top with no problem.
We would love to hear how your boat club solves the "tall trailer" problem, especially if you think you’ve hacked up an even better way than this idea. This is one of those "things" that every club has a fix for, and we bet there are some cool hacks out there that folks are using to get this job done safely and well. So, share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.
Have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion here? Send it to us!