Posts Tagged 'sunfish 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

how to upgrade a used Sunfish sailboat [video]

Lee Montes has been hard at work putting together some great Sunfish sailing videos recently. I wanted to share this one – “how to upgrade a used Sunfish sailboat” – with some of my thoughts on his list of recommended items.

Lee recommends the follow items to upgrade your used Sunfish [with my thoughts in brackets]

  1. mainsheet hangers [my2fish: zip-ties are a really cheap and simple option for mainsheet hangers]
  2. dry out your boat [my2fish: install an inspection port and a cheap fan like a muffin pan, PC fan]
  3. gooseneck quick release [my2fish: agreed, but Intensity Sails doesn’t offer them anymore… need to find a new supplier]
  4. universal tiller joint (and tiller extension) [my2fish: agreed, this is a great improvment]
  5. daggerboard retaining line (bungee cord) [my2fish: agreed, I’d recommend a new line kit]
  6. trucker’s hitch or slipknot for halyard [my2fish: install a mast cleat]
  7. Seitch or Dynamic dolly [my2fish: our build your own PVC dolly]

I added my thoughts behind each item above, but a couple others I’d recommend as good upgrades to improve your Sunfish sailing experience:

  1. mainsheet ratchet block (my preferred setup) makes sailing the Sunfish so much fun and easier to maintain your grip on the mainsheet
  2. new racing cut sail from Intensity Sails ~$150 (this sail is not “class legal” but for rec sailors is such a good upgrade)
  3. mast cleat (mentioned above, important to minimize the tension force on the halyard cleat on the deck)
  4. new line kit (mentioned above, well worth the $50 or so for all new control lines)

I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my photos slipped into Lee’s video – showing my older Sunfish stored at my dad’s barn (at the 1:21 mark of the video).

sailing log 2020-06-21: Father’s Day at Ford Lake

for Father’s Day afternoon, my oldest son and I drove down to Ford Lake near Ypsilanti for an afternoon sail.  I’ve sailed at this lake a couple times before (here and here).  when we pulled into the parking lot, there was quite a bit of fishing boats being pulled out at the ramp – I think they maybe had a small fishing tournament that morning (it reeked of fish guts in the parking lot).  but we used my sunfish PVC dolly to just roll our Sunfish and Minifish hulls down through the park grass to the water’s edge and just avoided the busy ramp.  by the time we got out sailing, the boat traffic on the lake was light again – there was one large sailboat off to the west/northwest.  winds were okay, but a bit lighter than I prefer to sail in.

my son T2 was on the Minifish and I sailed the Sunfish.

he’s likely getting too big for the Minifish, but in light winds, he likes to just plop down comfortably in the shallow cockpit of the Minifish and relax.  he might be in a bit of trouble if hit by a big gust of wind, but that never happened this afternoon… at least not enough to flip him over!

after a while of drifting along, I followed suit and sat down in the cockpit of my Sunfish.  I then worked on the top-secret toe grip for mainsheet control.  all the best Sunfish racers are using this grip. 🙂

we sailed for an hour or two – it was a lot of fun despite the light winds.

one thing I regret not getting a picture of was an older gentlemen out in his kayak – it was set up with 2 outriggers and a square-rigged pirate sail, complete with a stuffed parrot sitting up on the upper boom.  and he was dressed appropriately, with pirate clothing and even a hat – that guy took the swash-buckling lifestyle pretty serious!

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!


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

et ego in Arcadia – Sunday

here’s the first day from our week vacation up at Camp Arcadia.  most of the post will be about Sunday’s activities, but technically the family week vacations up at Camp Arcadia are usually Saturday afternoon to the following Saturday afternoon.  the first day thus usually involves some frantic last-minute packing to get on the road ASAP, then a roughly 4-hour drive to get up to camp. here’s my Sunfish rigged up for the road, with a couple of the boys’ bikes riding along with my Sunfish PVC dolly.

after the long drive to Camp, the rest of Saturday is spent settling into the cottage, eating our first dinner at camp, and then watching the Talent Show by the Camp staff – mostly introductions, a few legitimate talent exhibits like singing or playing an instrument, and a mix of silly skits.

Sunday starts with a buffet breakfast, and then a short walk out of Camp and into the small town of Arcadia to Trinity Lutheran Church, a great historic church at 130+ years old.  it’s been a family tradition while driving into Arcadia on Saturday afternoon to see who can be the first to spot the steeple poking above the trees.

after the church service, we walked back to our cottage, and I started getting my Sunfish ready to take to the beach.  I used my Sunfish PVC dolly to roll it down some sidewalks and then the sand to the beach, and lugged all the extra gear down on a 2nd trip, and then headed to the dining room to have some of the buffet lunch before heading out to sail.  my youngest son (4 yrs old) was pretty geeked as usual to sail – he had his little sailing outfit on and everything, and was hanging around trying to help get it ready to sail.

it was a cooler day, and the water temperature was pretty cold, so I had a few layers on to make sure I stayed warm if I was to fall out or tip over.  on a day like this, I like to wear my Ronstan long sleeve rashguard underneath my shorty wetsuit.  and this year my new piece of gear is some NRS wetsocks from REI.  I really like all 3 of these pieces of gear – the wetsocks are a nice addition, as I have to wade in the water a bit to get the final rigging done, and then get the Sunfish started sailing.  the only disadvantage is that I can often get pretty warm if it is sunny and I’m not getting splashed with water (or falling out of the boat!).

the wind was fairly calm out of the south/southwest that afternoon, and the water was pretty flat, so it was a nice and easy sail across the Lake Michigan water.  on my first tack back towards shore, I could see my 11-yr old son T2 wading out in the water towards me, so I swung close and picked him up (and then gave him my life jacket because he didn’t bring one with him!).

while sailing with him, I sat to one side, and gave him both the tiller extension and the mainsheet – so he was in full control of the sailboat.  it was neat to see him learning how little adjustments to one or the other would affect the course we were sailing.  he also LOVED to hook his feet under the hiking strap, and lean so far back that his head touched the water!

after sailing with him for a little bit, I then gave rides on the Sunfish to both of my other sons, as well as several of my nephews, and a little girl who had been watching from the beach.  my oldest son T2 had switched over to the stand-up paddleboard that the camp owns – he spent a TON of time out on that, and was able to stand and paddle way out into Lake Michigan, often with one of his cousins riding along.  I only have this picture of him kneeling on it, but most of the time he was standing up.

while we were sailing, other members of my family took out the ocean kayaks, the rowboat, and the stand-up paddleboard – both adults and kids taking turns on each of them.  all in all, a great afternoon of messing about on the waters of Lake Michigan.  a couple of the kids took turning burying themselves in the warm sand on the beach.

then, they all joined together to bury their newest uncle and decorate him with beach toys.

I did end up missing the wine tasting that afternoon that was presented by Left Foot Charley, a local winery that is run by a previous staff member from Camp Arcadia.  after the awesome afternoon on the beach, it was time for dinner on the patio – amazing pulled pork sandwiches.

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