Posts Tagged 'PVC dolly'

sunfish pvc dolly – handle upgrades

I love when I get feedback from fellow Sunfish sailors after they build their own Sunfish PVC dolly, more or less following the Sunfish PVC dolly plans that I posted several years ago. often they mention little tweaks here and there, but now Mark has made some major improvements and we both thought it would be great to share them with the rest of the Sunfish sailing community. here are a few of his modifications:

  • modified the handle attachment to use hitch pins to allow the handle to be removable (major upgrade!)
  • adjusted the axle design so that instead of a long threaded rod, you can use short bolts instead
  • the axle design changes allow you to widen the dolly width (so as to not be limited by the length of threaded rod you can easily source)
  • changed to all stainless steel hardware to allow use in saltwater environments
  • added bunk supports to keep the dolly bunks from dragging

Mark put together a very thorough blog post that outlines his ideas and directions on how to tweak my dolly plans to incorporate his changes. if you’re interested in his improvements, check out his blog post and his very detailed instructions.

Mark’s handle connection and bunk supports
Mark’s hitch pin handle connection

sunfish pvc dolly & handle [plans]

several years ago, I blogged about the Sunfish PVC dolly that I built for moving around my Sunfish.  I later drew up plans for building the dolly, and posted them here for free!
my sunfish PVC dolly
I have since then built a handle out of PVC that attaches to the axle of the PVC dolly, and makes it a little easier to pull the dolly with a Sunfish on it, particularly if you are trying to drag it through sand. the handle lets you pull on the dolly, instead of just pulling on the Sunfish bow handle, and having your Sunfish slide off the dolly and fall onto the beach (speaking from personal experience here…). here is a picture of my Minifish sitting on the PVC dolly with the PVC handle.

minifish on pvc dolly

I’ve had requests for details on the handle, so sketched up the approximate size and layout that I used.  it requires an additional approx 20 lineal feet of 1 1/4″ PVC pipe and a handful of PVC pipe fittings.

for my version of the handle, I used a reducer tee at the axle of the Sunfish dolly – so my handle swivels (the reducer tee had a larger diameter size at the “arms” of the tee so it is larger than the 1 1/4″ pipe at the dolly axle).  if you are building a dolly from scratch, you could consider just gluing the handle at that location.

at the upper part of the handle where you pull the dolly, I added a PVC tee and a PVC plug.  I screwed an eyelet into the plug, and you can use a carabiner or short length of rope to attach to the bow handle on your Sunfish.  full disclosure: I’m not sure it is necessary or even really helps any! I did also add a couple pieces of pipe insulation on the parts of the PVC dolly handle that will rub against the boat gunwales.

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). and here is a drawing for the handle (download a copy of the PVC dolly handle drawing .pdf here).

so there you have it:  a bit more detail on my Sunfish PVC dolly and its new handle option.  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-

best of luck, and let me know any comments or questions!


new carpet padding for sunfish PVC dolly

over the last couple years, the pipe insulation that I had used as padding on my home-made Sunfish PVC dolly has been wearing down due to use, and some of it was about ready to fall off. I didn’t want the bare PVC to be rubbing against the bottom of my Sunfish sailboat, so knew that I needed to replace and/or improve the padding for the PVC dolly.

I bought some new pipe insulation at the hardware store – this time instead of the foam pipe insulation, I bought some that appears to be more like a rubber (?) material.  on top of that insulation, I also added some scraps of trailer bunk carpet.

similar to before, I used double zip-ties spaced pretty frequently to hold everything down onto the top “bunks” of the Sunfish PVC dolly.

the new insulation will act as padding, and the new carpet covering should hold up very well, and hopefully last quite a bit longer this time.


wheeleez boat dolly

a few months ago, I just started randomly getting a magazine delivered to my house – “BoatU.S. Magazine“.  I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it was after I set up an online account at West Marine (although I never ordered anything – just got their free catalog… I should have known).  the latest BoatU.S. magazine happily let me know I could subscribe and keep getting it for only $15!  a steal of a deal.

so 99% of the time, I flip through the magazine each month and toss it out in the recycling bin in the garage, as it largely is focused on powerboats, with a plethora of advertising to suit those interests.  this month, though, something finally caught my eye – it was a Sunfish! here is a scan from the page:

the short “article” is promoting a new dolly that is being produced by Wheeleez.  this is the same company where I bought the foam tires that I have been using on my Sunfish PVC dolly.  evidently, they are entering the adjustable small-boat dolly market, hoping to compete with the Seitech, Trailex, and similar models – all in the several hundred dollar price range.

as for me, I’ll stick with my home-made version with the Wheeleez foam wheels.  at probably less than $100 total, it’s much cheaper than some of the dollies listed above, and it gets the job done just fine for me.

sailing log: 2011-07-23 (lake erie)

after the major frustration I’ve been having with sailing at Kent Lake, I decided to try out a new option.  I realized that driving down to Sterling State Park on Lake Erie near Monroe, Michigan, would only be maybe 10 or 15 minutes farther of a drive than I had been making up to Kent Lake.  that was a short enough increase in driving to make it worth checking out.

the weather forecast for the weekend was a chance of rain on and off.  I got a little worried as I was driving down – there were pockets of rain (some light, some a little heavier) as I was driving, and I thought I might have to skip out on the sailing.

the state park has a boat launch, but it is located back in one of the lagoons, and you’d have to motor out into the main waters of Lake Erie.  so instead, I was planning to launch from the beach, but the parking lots are set off quite a ways from the beach, so I parked and walked down to scope things out.  there was a gravel access road that went down to the beach (I think the state park uses it to re-grade the beach).  the water looked pretty shallow, and fairly calm, but there was a bit of wind.  as I was walking in the parking lot back to the truck, there was a strong wind blowing at my face and towards the water – I was hopeful for some good sailing.

it took me 20 or 30 minutes to get all my gear around, and stacked nicely in and on the Sunfish.  this was the 1st time I’d be using my Sunfish PVC dolly to haul my boat a considerable distance, and I needed to get everything, as I didn’t want to make multiple trips.  the PVC dolly did great through the parking lot, across the grass and gravel path, and even some in the hard-packed sand, but it gets bogged down in the softer sand, so it made it maybe 25 to 30 feet from the waterline.  I had to drag the Sunfish the rest of the way across the sand.

I got everything all set up and started out on the calm waters of Lake Erie.  but that beautiful wind out of the west I had felt up in the parking lot had completely died off, and I drifted and had to use my paddle for the first 20 minutes or so.  it was plenty hot, though, so after a while I stuffed my life jacket in the storage cubby, and sat down in the cockpit and let the sail all the way out to try to let the boat run in the light breeze.  right about then, the wind started picking up a little bit (and coincidentally, that’s when my GoPro Surf Hero camera quit on me – the memory card was too full of old videos!).  I did get this screen-grab, but the rest of the video isn’t very exciting as I drifted/paddled in the calm water.

the wind stayed pretty light, but I was at least able to sail a few nice reaches back and forth as the wind came and went, and then finished up with a nice easy run back to the beach after maybe an hour and a half on the water.  the PVC dolly worked great hauling the boat back up to the truck and trailer, where I packed it all up and headed back home.

so, now I’ve sailed a Sunfish on Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan – 3 of the 5 Great Lakes.  I think the last 2 will be a bit harder to accomplish… both would require a serious drive: probably 6 hours to Lake Superior, and Lake Ontario would be 4 hours if I drove through Canada and dealt with the hassle of customs at the border(s) or 7 hours if I drove entirely in the US to avoid Canada.  maybe I can plan some camping trips for next summer at one, or the other, or maybe even both!



sunfish PVC dolly – update

just wanted to give a quick update on my home-made Sunfish PVC dolly. here is a new picture with my Sunfish, to give an idea of the scale of the dolly in relation to the Sunfish.

I’ve used it twice so far – and both times it performed great.  the 1st time was at a hard-packed dirt/sand ramp and the other time was at a regular paved boat ramp.  I still haven’t tested it out in any beach sand.  oh yeah – the PVC dolly floats, too!  it seems to take on a small amount of water at the axle, so I will probably either drill a hole somewhere in the PVC to allow it to drain the water out, or find a way to seal it up water-tight to make sure it keeps floating!

I was able to slide the Sunfish off the back roller guide on my trailer and rest the back end of the Sunfish on the PVC dolly, and then walk up and pick up and roll the dolly down the ramp using the bow handle.  to get the boat out of the water, it was a little more cumbersome to get the Sunfish onto the dolly down in the water but still manageable by myself.


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:

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