sunfish PVC dolly plans

about 3 years ago, I did a long & exhaustive search online for various ways to transport a Sunfish down to and around the beach.  after finding several fairly expensive versions you could buy, and a handful of decent DIY style dollies you could build at home, I instead decided to try to come up with my own idea and this was the result:

my sunfish PVC dolly

my Sunfish PVC dolly has served me really well – and works great for my normal use.  but for use in soft beach sand, a handle of some sort would be recommended. [I actually made a new PVC handle for mine this spring, but haven’t tested it on beach sand… will report in detail later on.]

so now at long last, I have finally put together a sketch showing the dimensions and details for my Sunfish PVC dolly.  if any of you would like to create your own dolly out of PVC, the dimensions should give you a pretty good head start (download a copy of the .pdf plan here).

sunfish PVC dolly sketch

I’ll go into a little bit of detail: I used a little less than 12 feet of 1 1/4″ PVC pipe, a slew of PVC fittings, a 3/4″ threaded rod for the axle, and these foam beach wheels. a general breakdown of parts is shown on the .pdf file (all parts can be found at your local hardware store except the wheels).

the detail at the axle with the PVC fittings is a bit tricky, so I put the pieces together at the hardware store to give you an idea of what I did (also see the detail shown in the .pdf file).

the 1 1/4″ x 3/4″ PVC bushing (spigot & thread) looks like this:

IMG_1970and the 3/4″ x 1/2″ PVC adapter (thread & slip) looks like this:


these (2) PVC fittings aren’t tightened completely together in my picture below, but it does illustrate how the parts go together.  I also had to trim the left piece (the 3/4″ to 1/2″ adapter) – basically removing the portion to the left of the “nut” part.  the wide end of the 1 1/4″ piece (to the right) then just slips into the PVC cross as shown on the plans.


you might also consider a few miscellaneous parts to complete your Sunfish PVC dolly:

  • (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)
  • I later also covered the pipe insulation with bunk carpet (same stuff used on boat trailers)
  • a handful of zip-ties
  • and PVC safe spray paint (if desired)

as I noted in my Sunfish PVC dolly update, instead of using double 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:

so there you have it.  a bit more detail on my Sunfish PVC dolly.  if you have any more specific questions, please feel free to post it in the comments below, or you can send me an email: my2fish -at-


or, if you’d like a more detailed step-by-step process and less money in your pocket, there is a guy selling Sunfish PVC dolly plans on eBay, with a dolly that looks pretty much exactly like mine.

“imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – Charles Caleb Colton


35 Responses to “sunfish PVC dolly plans”

  1. 1 jebwebb July 17, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I like it. Now to find the time…


  2. 2 Richard A. July 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    This is EXACTLY the kind of thing I have been seeking for my Zuma. Now, off to the hardware store (after I change some dimensions to suit)! Thanks!


  3. 4 Carl June 25, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Hi, I’m wondering how a 3/4″ threaded rod goes through the 1/2″ PVC adapter, the math doesn’t add up there?


    • 5 my2fish June 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Carl, interesting point. I’m sure that is the PVC piece I used, so I’ll have to double check the size of the threaded rod. it could be a oddity with PVC sizing, maybe?


      • 6 Carl June 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm

        m2f, would you hasten a guess on the full diameter of the tire and wheel assembly? Harbor Freight has some nice looking 10 inch” ones for 6 bucks….I’m assuming that means overall diam…..


      • 7 my2fish June 25, 2014 at 2:49 pm

        Carl, per the Wheeleez site, the foam tires I have are 10.2″ diameter. they also have a 3/4″ bushing… making me think that the 3/4″ rod I mentioned is correct (and it must be just an oddity with PVC dimensions).


  4. 8 Ken June 29, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Thank you for the excellent plans. I bought the parts exactly as specified, all off the shelf in a single trip to home depot (after thinking about how it would work). I am using this for my 14′ whitehall row/sailboat, and have been looking and trying different dollies that allow me to easily move the boat from my trailer in the parking lot to the boat-house dock by myself (~200 yards).

    I spent ~3 hours total cutting and assembling per the plan. I made a couple minor changes:

    1. I was worried about the boat slipping on the dolly when pulled, so I put a couple eye-bolts in the angled pieces (part (d)) so I could run a strap to the boat when hauling up the ramp – at low tide a steep ramp with bumps. This has worked beautifully and was the #1 problem I hoped to solve with this dolly.

    2. I found a piece of 3/4″ id, 1″od plastic tube and used that to fill the space between the axle and the inside diameter of the axle pvc pipe and pvc bushings (part (f)). I was worried about the empty space, and this really solved that concern. I also sealed it all up with marine sealant, as I did not want salt water getting into the axle tube.

    I was worried about the weight of the boat but no problem.

    I just ordered a pair of car-top rack pads from Amazon, to replace the pipe insulation which I don’t expect to hold up well.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to sketch up the plans and make them available. There isn’t a lot to choose from and the kayak/canoe carriers out there really don’t fit my need, and this has worked perfectly for me.


  5. 10 Rodney July 4, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Thanks for the plans; easy to put together. I found wheels at Northern Tool; had to use 5/8 threaded rod for the axle – but otherwise followed plans closely.

    Did you use pipe lock or anything when assembling the PVC to help the dolly keep its shape? I’m finding mine could use some reinforcement.


    • 11 my2fish July 4, 2014 at 7:41 am

      Rodney, did you use PVC glue at the joints? Mine is all glued up tight at every joint… it doesn’t shift it’s shape at all. Glad the plans were helpful!


  6. 12 Pete Greenwood July 15, 2015 at 8:00 am

    What is the modification that will make this work on soft Sand?


  7. 14 Pat April 15, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for all your work, great plans. This looks like just the dolly I need for a rowing wherry we’re going to build this summer.


  8. 15 Pete April 15, 2016 at 8:56 am

    The tires you use with a handle will they ride over soft sand easier than those wider ones?


    • 16 my2fish April 15, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Pete, adding the handle definitely helps pull the foam tires through sand. but if you have really soft sand, and a long ways to travel – you are probably better off getting the balloon tires.


  9. 17 Tom August 24, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    I built this in the total of a day’s time and it looks great and moves the boat really well. I made a couple modifications regarding where the boat sits on the handle as well as the axel diameter. I figured a threaded axel wasn’t an absolute necessity(just put the pinholes in very very close to the wheels, kinda squishing them). My local hardware store didn’t have the right type of PVC thread for the threaded axels they had, apparently plumbing threading is different than normal threading, so I just went with unthreaded axel, still works great. I went kinda cheap-o on the wheels and got some $8 mower wheels that do the job, but they required a half-inch axel, so I adjusted the PVC design accordingly.
    If I could give one piece of advice: use the right glue! I picked up the first bottle of PVC glue I could find at the hardware store and the stuff essentially locked on contact(It was about 90 degrees out that day, just for reference. If it’s cooler where you live, most PVC cement should do the job). This led to a few pieces not being square when I first started to put it together, so I had to throw those couple fittings away and cut some new pipe. Went on Amazon and bought some Gorilla Glue branded PVC cement that the reviews claimed had a 30-40 second working time, which was exactly what I needed, and it did the trick.
    Here’s a picture of the final product with my ’79 Sunfish:

    Thanks for the great design!


  10. 21 kapper1956Evan September 3, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Hi, been working on this dolly and have come to the handle plans…They don’t have any of the measurements for the PVC pipe sections like the Dolly plans themselves, also the plans are not to scale, measuring the plans and using the scales the measurements don’t convert to what is given for the sections. So can you give me the measurements for those PVC pipe sections?


    • 22 my2fish September 6, 2016 at 6:08 am

      kapper1956Evan, the overall dimensions are shown: 84″ long from the axle to the 45-degree elbow, 10″ up to the handle, and 12″ center-to-center of the parallel handle pieces.
      the location of the 2 cross bars doesn’t really matter, you can locate them where ever you find most convenient.


  11. 23 Dion January 22, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks for the excellent plans. I built mine this weekend and it turned out great!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 25 AC June 29, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Great plans and design. Bought a Sunfish on Friday and built your dolly on Saturday., The wheels were costly though. Thanks for sharing.


  13. 27 Gordon Johnson September 17, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Great plans and I definitely appreciate your taking the time to prepare the material list!. I just built this for my newly purchased used Sunfish and it came out just as described. I did modify slightly as I wanted to use Harbor Freight wheels (cheaper) and they are all 5/8″ hubs. So, I used 5/8″ rod and my fitting was an 1 1/4″ male PVC adapter by 1/2″ pipe thread female adapter. I bought a brass 1 1/2″ long x 1/2″ pipe nipple, screwed it into the PVC adapter and cut it off on the shoulder section. It acts like a bushing for the rod. I also discovered that a 36″ rod was too short for nuts, so I used washers on the inside and outside of the wheel and drilled holes in the end for cotter pins. Thanks again.


  14. 29 Mark McMillan June 10, 2021 at 9:40 am

    I am thinking about salt water issues and corrosion when I use this in a coastal area. A steel axle will be toast in 6 months, but a long threaded stainless steel rod is expensive. I am thinking about using a 3″ stainless bolt instead of a long rod. The bolt head would be inside the 3/4 x 1/2 adapter with washer and nut on the outside of the adapter to lock it in place. Then another washer and then the wheel. All nuts and washers will be SS. I don’t think it changes the stress on the PVC, the entire weight of the boat is taken on the 4-way connector where the axle passes through the adapter in either case (long rod or a bolt).

    I know the wheel bearings may not last, but I can buy wheels for $7 at Northern Tool, so if I replace them every year that is OK. But if the axle and nuts rust up, that would be a major pain to disassemble.



    • 30 my2fish June 10, 2021 at 9:43 am

      Mark, that seems like a simple solution and worth trying out. If I recall, the 36″ threaded rod limit was actually a tad shorter than I would have preferred, but that’s what was easily available. Without that limit, you could make the dolly as wide as you wanted.


      • 31 Mark McMillan June 10, 2021 at 10:29 am

        Yes, that was the other mod I was thinking of, to make it a bit wider. I hope the cheap wheels work out – those balloon beach tires are expensive!


      • 32 my2fish June 10, 2021 at 10:31 am

        yeah, I just use my original foam wheels, I couldn’t justify the cost for balloon beach tires.
        but I also mostly launch from grass/gravel/paved ramps… rarely have to cross long deep sand beaches where the balloon tires would be helpful.


  1. 1 sunfish PVC dolly | my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on July 28, 2013 at 7:47 pm
  2. 2 sunfish pvc dolly & handle [plans] | my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on June 25, 2015 at 9:03 am
  3. 3 sailing log 2020-06-21: Father’s Day at Ford Lake | my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on July 31, 2020 at 4:42 pm

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