What I’ve learned from 60 years of trailer boating and why I’ve parked up my trailer for the last time

Andrew Wilson-Bett explains why trailer boating brought him some unforgettable experiences and why he's reluctantly bid farewell to his trailler.

The boats my father and I have owned since the late 1960s have been quite varied but they have all had one thing in common: a trailer. Trailer boating would happen twice a year for me and my dad: once up to Porthmadog in the spring and then back home again at the end of the season.

While I certainly loved it, my own boats have travelled much further afield. In my mid 20s, I worked for Fletcher Sports Boats and bought a lovely secondhand 160 Bravo with a 75hp Mercury outboard motor.

Every Wednesday, I would tow her to work (in suit and tie) and at 5pm on the dot, I would drive the mile or so to Chasewater, a large reservoir serving the canal network. Three of us would spend the evening waterskiing, followed by a last-orders dinner at our local Italian.

For a number of years, I would then go out with my father’s Hardy Fishing 24 back in Wales, but after he died, I wanted to use a boat elsewhere. Our local boatyard had a barely used Boston Whaler 160 Dauntless with a Mercury 115 on the transom, so trailer boating started again, with holidays to Dartmouth, as well as Empuriabrava on the Costa Brava.

Trailer boating in Spain

Our Spanish trips needed plenty of planning, particularly when it came to overnight stays in France. Secure parking was essential, but we also wanted the trip to feel like part of the holiday. One of our most memorable overnighters was at Château de Lassalle near Agen, sadly now only open for weddings and events. Getting there involved winding country lanes and a narrow gateway but it was worth it.

We towed the Boston Whaler to Spain three times, renting villas with a pool and mooring on Empuriabrava’s canal network, which gives you easy access out into the Med. The boat was great but we really needed something bigger that would still be easy to tow. This came in the form of an XO 250 Open, which was ideal for trailer boating.

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On one trip, en route to Château St Marcel, the police pulled out and escorted us off the autoroute. We reached the toll booth to be met by a journalist, a photographer and half a dozen gendarmes, demanding to see the paperwork for the car and boat. It transpired that there was a clampdown on overweight loads and we had been selected for a check. Duly weighed and given the all-clear, we went on our way – but that is a lesson for us all.

It’s vital to keep your trailer boating rig legal. If you’re too heavy, too wide or too long, you are uninsured and an accident resulting in injury or death might well cost you everything you own – including your liberty!


The Axopar 28 Cabin is Andrew’s first un-trailerable boat

An upgrade too far?

If you choose the right boat and the right cruising grounds, trailer boating is great. Chartering a 25ft boat in the Med for a fortnight costs around €10,000. By contrast, we rented a four-bed villa with pool and mooring, towed our own boat and paid just €8,000. Hard work? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!

But now we’ve upgraded to an Axopar 28 Cabin, the trailer boating has come to an end. At 3,900kg (400kg over the limit), Fika is confined to a yard trailer instead!

First published in the September 2023 issue of MBY.

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