sunfish PVC dolly

I wanted to build myself a dolly to transport my Sunfish down the beach, or maybe just to get the boat from a parking lot to the water if the boat launch ramp is too crowded.  I have spent some time looking around online at a few different options, including options to purchase as well as a variety of home-made dollies.

Seitech dollies seem to be one of the more popular brands to purchase,  and start at about $425.

Seitech Sunfish dolly

another similar option is the Trailex universal dolly, starting at about $495, but that is with the smaller wheels – another $150 to upgrade to large wheels!

a much smaller option is the Rollaboat Tote dolly, priced at $135(?).  I didn’t like this option, as I was concerned that there was too much of an possibility to over-stress the daggerboard trunk area.

this is a home-made version, built using mostly threaded pipe sections, and details of its construction are here.

this is a nice video series for a homemade sunfish dolly – here is part 4 of 5 (there’s 5 total videos, this one gives you a good idea of what the dolly looks like and how it would work).  it’s made with mostly lumber products, so avoids threaded pipe or dealing with PVC.

there are several other options for Sunfish dollies over in the “Files” section at the Sunfish Sailor Yahoo Group – if you’re not a member of that group yet, go sign up, and browse through the files to see more options for the dolly, as well as a wealth of other information. probably my favorite option from that group is the Sunfish Beach Dolly by Jim Manta. it is made out of PVC pipe, is plain and simple, and seems to be favored as a good do-it-yourself option.  there are detailed instructions and a parts-list at the Sunfish Sailor Yahoo Group.

I decided to build my own version of a PVC dolly, similar in style to Jim’s, but a slightly different setup, and a few tweaks (not necessarily for the better!).  I used 1 1/4″ PVC pipe, a slew of PVC fittings, a 3/4″ threaded rod for the axle, and these foam beach wheels.  these wheels were a cheaper option than the fat beach wheels Jim Manta used above – we’ll see how well my PVC dolly performs on sand, though.

my sunfish PVC dolly

the top bars are about 36″ total length, and the supports are about 21″ center to center. here’s a general breakdown of parts (all parts can be found at your local hardware store except the wheels):


  • (1) 3/4″ x 36″ threaded rod
  • (4) 3/4″ flat washers
  • (4) 3/4″ nuts (there are only 2 in the picture – I will pick up another pair to act as locknuts) (SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM)


  • (2) 1 1/4″ pipe x 5′ long
  • (2) 1 1/4″ crosses
  • (4) 1 1/4″ tees
  • (4) 1 1/4″ caps
  • (8) 1 1/4″ 45-degree elbows
  • (2) 1 1/4″ to 3/4″ slip and thread fittings
  • (2) 3/4″ slip and thread fittings

miscellaneous parts:

  • (1) 6′ piece of pipe foam insulation (supposed to be for 1″ pipe – it was the largest I could find, on sale for 31 cents… it doesn’t wrap all the way around, but covers enough for me)
  • (2) foam wheels w/ plastic bushings
  • a handful of zip-ties
  • and spray paint (if desired)

I probably got the names wrong on the last 2 PVC fittings – the 1 1/4″ fitting slips into the 1 1/4″ cross, and the other end is female threaded for a 3/4″ fitting. then the 3/4″ male threaded portion is screwed on. the 3/4″ axle fits pretty snugly inside of that fitting.  I will probably revisit the hardware store to see if I can find a PVC piece to fit inside the 1 1/4″ pipe, and then the 3/4″ rod inside of that – similar to the style Jim Manta used for his dolly – but I think his axle diameter was smaller, so am not sure if I can get that to work out or not, based on available pipe sizes, anyway.

UPDATE 7/17/2013 – I have put together a set of dimensioned plans for my Sunfish PVC dolly

anyway, the PVC dolly is now built, seems to hold my Sunfish pretty well, and a beach test will hopefully confirm that it works in sand.  the dolly should work fine, though, to roll my Sunfish down the boat ramp at my local lake.


I posted an update after almost losing the tires of the dolly when I was driving down the road – using (2) nuts didn’t work adequately as “locknuts”:

I did update the construction just a tad, though. as I was trailering the boat a few weekends ago, the vibration from bouncing along down the road caused the (2) nuts on one end of the axle to spin loose, and fall off as I was driving down the road!  in fact, if I hadn’t stopped in time, I probably would have lost one of the brand new foam wheels as well.

to prevent this from happening again, instead of using the (2) nuts on each axle, I reverted back to just (1) nut on the outside, but then drilled a 9/64″ diameter hole in the axle so that I could install a 1/8″ cotter pin to lock everything in place.  here is a picture of the installed cotter pin on the end of the axle:


47 Responses to “sunfish PVC dolly”

  1. 1 Joe Rouse June 7, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Hi Greg…ah..Chad…ah, ah..oh yeah, Thad 😉
    Great post, I’ve been looking for ideas to build a kayak trailers and a dolly for my Force 5. Thanks for more ideas!


  2. 2 classicalgas June 10, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I’ve seen the one where you fit it into the daggerboard area. I think that would be a hassle just trying to get the boat off that.

    Love your home made one! Kudos. You’ll get it perfected! And then you can patent it and make your millions! LOL!!

    I’ve often thought about putting instructions on here for the boat cradle. But that’s for another time.

    Enjoy and kudos to you!


  3. 3 Kir June 15, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    I agree with the above poster. Your design looks great, and I think you could easily sell it. More professional looking than the others…Well done.


  4. 4 my2fish June 15, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    kir, thanks for stopping by – my spray paint job is what’s fooling ya! I just hope the dolly works well enough for me… no desire to try selling it.

    if the c-man wants one for his Super Snark, we can discuss pricing 🙂


  5. 5 Judy November 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    We noticed the comment that someone is afraid of overstress on the daggerboard trunk if they were to use the Rollaboat Tote. We have been using the Rollaboat Tote for years on our Sunfish and have had no stress on the trunk at all.


  6. 6 PMB April 18, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I did a similar thing with my axle. However, drill the hole for the cotter pin right through the flat of the nut. This way the nut will keep the correct adjustment and not be floating on the edge of the pin. Sort of like how a castle nut would work on a real axle.


    • 7 my2fish April 18, 2011 at 10:07 am

      PMB, that’s a great idea – I hadn’t thought about it. I probably won’t re-drill mine, but if I ever have to do it again, I’ll use that idea.

      thanks, my2fish


  7. 8 Jay Clarke May 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Bought my first Sunfish last week end and found your site shortly thereafter. I have really enjoyed it. Made the dolly today and found it difficult to keep it in place under the boat as I moved it around. I also found it challenging to get the boat on it from the trailer. I am hoping to be able to single handedly take the boat the lake and launch it in an area where a trailer launch is not possible.

    I was wondering if you have made any adjustments to the dolly to improve it. Thanks for the blog…it’s fun to follow.



    • 9 my2fish May 30, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      Jay, yeah the dolly can be a bit finicky. did you use the foam/insulation? that helps “stick” a bit to the underside of the boat. I usually try to position the dolly about 2/3 of the way back, and steer using the bow handle. to get it back on the trailer, I roll the boat to the back end of the trailer, and then I use the rubber guide/wheel on the trailer, and sort of ride the Sunfish up that wheel until it is far enough on to rest on the bunks. often I end up standing up on the trailer to do it. maybe try it a couple more times?

      I haven’t modified the dolly at all – but I might end up modifying my trailer to make it easier to work with the dolly, and to give me some storage space. since I never launch off the trailer anymore, I don’t need to be able to back it down into the water or anything.

      thanks for reading.


  8. 10 Jay Clarke June 1, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Appreciate the comments… I haven’t played with it again yet….darn work getting in the way of play. I don’t have rollers on the trailer but I watched the video you have above and thought that lifting the stern off the trailer and onto the dolly might be a good way to go. I may try to hook up tie-downs to it too to hold it place for the little hills around here. Hopefully there will be a breeze this week end!


  9. 11 Fred Zimmer July 6, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Good Design…I added 4 more t’s at the 45 degree angle and spanned the axle width front and back with 1 1/4″ PVC to increase the structural integrity.


  10. 13 Matt September 19, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    The weak link in most homemade dollies seems to be the wheels. I’ve sourced some seitech-type wheels and need to know if there is enough interest to justify a large order. The wheels very good quality with 1 inch dry roller bearing hubs. Drop me a line at to let me know if you have any interest.


  11. 15 Kelly June 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    I am assuming that making your own dolly was cheaper than buying one and am looking at using your design. I am wondering though, how much about did all the supplies cost together?

    Thanks, I love this blog!



    • 16 my2fish June 13, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Kelly, strange to think I never mentioned that?! and now I can’t honestly recall, but I’m sure it was less than most of the commercial ones I listed above, and I would think less than $100, even with the foam wheels.


      • 17 Gunner September 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

        Hi. Which diameter bushing option did you use please? Also, why is plastic better than metal for the bearings?


      • 18 my2fish September 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm

        Gunner, I believe that I bought plastic bushing, the 3/4″ size to match the 3/4″ threaded rod I bought. you could probably use the other bushings sizes if you buy that matching bushing.

        I think the plastic might be more appropriate for a beach dolly just because it will be getting wet a lot, and would hold up better with the moisture.


  12. 19 francois October 24, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Hello, First of all thanks.
    This post was of great inspiration to me. I made mine quite on the same design (and not for a sunfish).
    Regarding the question about price, I spent 67 EUR for all materials (wheels being the more expensive part, 26EUR).
    I had some difficulties sourcing the cross PVC fittings and I’m still working on making the PVC tubes waterproof (preventing water entering thru the axle)
    Thanks again


    • 20 my2fish October 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      francois – thanks for the comment. I gave up on trying to make mine waterproof, and just drilled a drainage hole to let the water drain out after I have used it. cheers, my2fish


  13. 21 Emily May 6, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Okay, I have a dumb question. I’ve got all my parts (minus foam and lock nuts, out of stock), but I’m wondering: was this a dry fit or did you use an adhesive?


    • 22 my2fish May 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      I dry fit it first, and then used the PVC adhesive.


      • 23 Emily May 7, 2013 at 11:11 am

        Sorry, other question: You’ve listed the size of the top bars, but I’m trying to figure out the pipe lengths between connectors on the two Us. I can try to do the math of it, but I’m not entirely sure what you mean by 21″ center to center – is that the pipe with the axle in it, or the U arms?


      • 24 my2fish May 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

        Emily, no worries. I’ve been meaning to sketch up something better with dimensions on it. the 21″ is the spacing between the (2) u-shaped frames (perpendicular to the u-frame, or along the length of the axle).


      • 25 Emily May 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

        I feel like I’m pestering, but what is the length of pipe segments in the U? 3 inches, 2 inches, varies? I think I can count 12 segments by the pic for the Us, and with 27 inches remaining (after arms and center rod), I think that comes to 2.25 inches per segment. Does that sound right? It looks like the segments aren’t equal in length, but it could also be the angles messing with my eyes.


      • 26 my2fish May 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

        Emily – I’d have to measure it to be sure. they do vary in length.

        if I was starting from scratch, I’d probably add a tee fitting in the middle of the axle, to give the option to add a handle section that goes forward to the bow.


  14. 27 Dave Blncht May 25, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    your dolly is interesting. bookmarked for later reading….. I have a junked two wheel wheelbarrow axle ….hope to figure out your carrier .
    At the moment my new rudder (christmas present) demands a spring post mounting. Trouble—- the bored hole seems too small. Worried that forcing the spring post could crack the new rudder. Anyone know what the original hole diameter for a spring post?


  15. 29 Frank June 23, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Where did you find your foam wheels?


  16. 31 Al Bernstein August 13, 2014 at 8:43 am

    We have been using the Rollaboat Tote Dolly for 4 years and have experienced no stress on the daggerboard trunk.


  17. 33 number1ninersfan February 27, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    What would you say the weight limit would be on that?


  18. 34 Terry April 24, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Just got some great 13″ wheels at Harbor Freight, rims and wheels about $14 each. Great on sand.


  19. 35 Respect Ocean Beach June 25, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Great blog, so many cool things. Minifish design…. I will likely work on for the dolly…. light enough to strap it on top the car with the hull? With the handle option? Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

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