By Ron Watson, Jr.
Piloting a sailboat can be great fun, but maintaining your craft is a daunting task. And transporting a vessel is one of the toughest chores a sailor can face.
Size is the most important factor when considering shipping a sailboat, and not only its length. Masts on a standard 27 ft. craft can range from 30 to 40 feet – their height is dictated by the sail plan, vessel displacement and keel size. Masts can be stowed, but keels must remain in place on larger boats, adding to the total transport height and requiring specialized stabilizing gear.
Some smaller craft have removable keels that can be retracted and stowed within a few hours, saving prep time and making transport easier.
While 13.6 ft. is the standard maximum height for federal interstate travel, you will need to bear in mind that some state highways run under bridges and overpasses that are considerably shorter, resulting in your driver having to find alternate routes.
Width is also an element that can affect the travel time of your sailboat. The beam is usually eight to nine feet at the vessel’s widest point (midships) – any craft wider than 10 ft. could require additional escort vehicles and a “wide load” protocol.
Adding to those concerns are the vast state-to-state differences of allowable transport width. In the northeastern U.S., where roads were planned over 150 years ago, travel lanes are narrower and large loads are intensely regulated. Some states even restrict travel to daylight hours during weekdays.
Other states, like Louisiana, Texas and points west, allow large loads to exit the interstate system but only within a five mile radius. Delivering your large sailboat any further off-interstate requires permission from local municipalities.
Finally, give yourself time to prepare your sailboat for travel. Decommissioning (removing all accessories, standing and running rigging, boom, etc.) can take at least a day. If you have a small eight or nine horsepower motor, be sure to empty the fuel tank and ensure all fluid lines are secure and not dry rotted. The motor should also be trimmed to its highest point.
It’s clear shipping a sailboat is not a cheap proposition, but deals can be had if you are flexible on pickup and delivery dates. Experienced drivers with considerable positive feedback can be in demand, but will make time for your shipment when they are able.
Do you need to ship a sailboat? CitizenShipper can help.