NATHAN Bajada explains the benefits of a boat latch system and how to install one on your boat.
YEP, I’ll admit it, I’m “that guy” who takes too long at the ramp trying to get my boat connected to my winch. The “same guy” wondering what is taking so long for my wife or mate to connect the safety chain and winch rope. I’m also the guy who has a reluctance to take people with little or no boating experience fishing for the worry of them not knowing how to handle the winching side of things.
Rejoice for those amongst us with engineering aptitude and foresight to develop an auto launch and retrieve system. You might know of them as the “Boat Catch”, “Boat Latch” or “Bar Catch”. Whatever you call them, they have revolutionised the way we deal with the launching and retrieval of our boats and at the same time removed so much of the stress that comes with trailer boat ownership. For those of us who fish solo, or with the kids, elderly or just people that don’t like getting their feet wet (you know who you are), these devices solve all these issues.
Most of my fishing is done from our 550 Cruise Craft Outsider. For those not familiar with the Cruise Craft line up, it’s an 18 foot walk around half cab fibreglass boat, not a high boat, but big enough to give attitude ramp-side. Through summer my wife and eight year old daughter accompany me on almost every fishing trip. In winter, well, that’s a different story… The sanctuary of a warm bed, or being curled up under a blanket with the heater running takes precedence over ice cold mornings, freezing cold wind chill and not enough sun to improve a vanishing tan. This leaves me to rally up my less experienced mates to come fishing. What’s the problem, I hear you ask? Well my wife has become supremely efficient at the winch post and has the launching and retrieving of our boat down to a fine art.
During winter it’s either me on my own or with another mate who’s not as familiar with the process. This almost always sees me leaving the helm, engine in gear holding the boat against the winch post climbing over the bow and taking on the wife’s task myself. Far from ideal, enjoyable, or safe!
I’d looked into the Boat Latch system in the past but never took the step towards purchasing one. I’d heard how good they were and every time the situation above took place I swore it would be the last time. Finally the idle threats were actioned and I purchased a system from L&R Boat Latch. I’m one of these guys with some mechanical knowledge and like to do as much as I can on my own boat. I had a look over a few YouTube videos and did some research online. I picked this particular unit as it was the easiest to fit to my boat and trailer. It still meant I needed to change my winch post, however this was the extent of the major changes or modifications required to fit the unit.
The instructions on the packet of the unit comes in handy and makes it simple enough to follow. The unit itself was manufactured from 316 Stainless Steel with a highly polished finish, looks solidly built and nicely finished. This unit requires you to remove the bow eye which passes through the bow into the anchor well via two surprisingly very long threaded bolts. After scratching away the gel coat from the retaining nuts it was a case of undoing these and knocking the original eye out. Once this is out you need to enlarge the two holes left behind. Once enlarged you simply place some sealant (I recommend sika-flex) over the threads of the new much larger funky looking supplied bow eye, which they call the “snare”, and tighten the nuts until it pulls firmly up against the hull and the sealant oozes out.
Next the latch mechanism needs to be bolted to the underside of the winch post. Now you may get lucky here and find you have existing bolt holes that line up with the latch holes, however I’m not so lucky with these things. I needed to drill most of the holes myself. Once these holes were drilled it was as simple as doing up the bolts.
With the bolts in place and tightened the next part in the process came as a surprise; clear and concise instructions on checking the alignment of your boat to your trailer. With this system you need to ensure your hull is centred perfectly on the trailer. This ensures perfect alignment and engagement between the snare and latching mechanism. I’ve always had problems with my hull to trailer alignment and making these adjustments solved all of my issues. Once following the instructions, I set the catching position of the latch and loop and tightened the winch post down. Then it was off to the water to test it out.
With the lever set to launching position I backed the boat down the ramp. The downward angle of the ramp ensured the snare had weight on it and the latch was engaged. I then felt safe enough to undo the safety chain. The boat was backed into the water, the engine fired up, and then placed into gear. You simply apply enough throttle to drive the boat against the winch post and with this you hear the latch decouple from the snare. Back off the throttle and return to natural and away the boat went down the trailer into the water. Too easy.
On retrieval, the lever is set to the retrieve position and again the trailer placed in the water. The boat is slowly driven onto the trailer, ensuring the boat is centred in the rollers/skids then light throttle is applied, enough to get you all the way up to the winch post. As soon as you touch the bow roller you hear and feel the latch spring shut as it catches the new bow eye. Ease the throttle off, and sure enough you’re secured to the winch post. Drive the trailer up the ramp just a little, put the safety chain on, and you’re done. No stress, no swearing, no divorce, everyone is happy.
I couldn’t recommend you put one of these systems on your boat highly enough. In the time we’ve had ours, it has alleviated so much of the stress around these parts of our day. These systems have made boat ownership that much more pleasurable.