Our caravan assembled in a K-Mart parking lot at 7:00 pm, for a final huddle before departing on the 10-hour run. Our goal: to get all four trailerboats to the inlet—in functional condition—by daybreak the next morning. Our plan: to slay numerous grouper, kingfish, snapper, and whatever the heck else we can sink a hook into, during the next three days. It will be sunup to sunset fishing, with no breaks and no excuses. On the fourth morning, we’ll load up and make the long haul home. Fortunately, even for an ambitious road trip like this we’re prepared because we know these road trip rules:
- THIS IS A TEAM EFFORT – Make runs like this as a group. Stay together, and use FRS radios to stay in touch. Don’t depend solely on cell phones, because someone’s is sure to run out of battery power or enter a dead zone at some point or another. Every vehicle should carry at least two drivers, so you can take shifts. Driving to the point of exhaustion is a major reason accidents occur, and accidents shut down fishing trips just as effectively as a 50-knot wind.
- REPAIR KIT – Prior to a major haul you need to make up a repair kit, which includes spare bearings (don’t forget the extra spindle nut, washer, and cotter pin), a spare wheel hub, spare lightbulbs, a spare tail light assembly, spare lug nuts, a spare sidelight assembly, spare wire plugs (male and female) and spare wire.
- CHILL OUT – When you arrive at your destination you’ll be chomping at the bit to dunk the boat, and start fishing. But take your time when you pull up to the ramp. You want at least 10 or 15 minutes to pass before you launch, to allow your bearings and hubs to cool off. Back down into cool saltwater while they’re still hot from the road trip, and the metal might crack.
- BREAK TIME – Take frequent brakes. Yes, this will delay your arrival and you’ll need to plan in additional travel time to make up for them. But there are several mechanical reasons to stop every three hours or so. First off, you’ll want to feel the hubs of each trailer wheel as soon as you pull over. If the bearings are sufficiently greased and in good shape, the hubs will be slightly warm to the touch. If not, they’ll feel hot. If a hub is hot enough to make you jerk back your hand in pain, you’re danger-close to a bearing failure. Secondly, the breaks give you an opportunity to check your lights and make sure they’re all working properly. As we all know, faulty lights can lead to flashing lights in the rear-view, which can lead to a significant delay-of-fishing penalty.
- RUNNING ON EMPTY – Generally speaking, you’ll want to keep your load as light as possible to stress your trailer and tow vehicle as little as possible. One way to eliminate a huge amount of weight from the haul is to run your boat until it’s nearly out of fuel, before loading up for the big road trip. Gasoline weighs about 6.2 pounds per gallon. If you’re pulling a boat that carries 100 gallons of fuel, that’s another 620 pounds of weight—a significant amount for any rig on the road. Also empty freshwater tanks and put weighty gear in your truck, not the boat.