Chandlery February 15, 2004 Issue

Chandlery: 02/15/04

Ramp-launching a trailerable boat, whether a runabout or tender, centerboard daysailer, multihull, or pocket cruiser—can provide way too much excitement if the ramp is slippery or steep. If it's shallow, and your boat's draft is deep, you wind up backing up until your tow vehicle is awash, with your rear wheels in the water and your tail pipe blowing bubbles. Then, because it’s still not afloat, you have to push the boat over the rollers, wrenching your back and soaking your pants. Finally, you can enjoy the thrill of spinning your wheels on a slime-covered ramp. 

Extend-a-Hitch puts some distance between your tow vehicle and the water.

Even in the best of circumstances, water, especially of the salt variety, will eventually work its way into bearings, brakes, exhaust fittings, lights, and wiring. A solution, of course, would be to have a longer tongue on your trailer. It would be nice, for launching and recovery, if your trailer could be extended, say, 10 feet in back of your car or truck.

A company called Extend-a-Hitch (now there's a name that describes the function) of Hayward, California, has come up with a neat answer. It's a hitch extension (available in 7, 9, 10, and 12-foot lengths) that stores under your trailer tongue when not in use. It's a simple enough device: When you arrive at the launch ramp, uncouple your trailer, pull a pin, and you can slide the extension out and lock it in place by re-inserting the pin. Recouple your trailer to the extension (there's a coupler at the end) and launch your boat—at a safe distance.

The Extend-a-Hitch is ruggedly made with an extension tube 3" square and a 3-1/2"-square outer housing. The outer housing is bolted under your trailer tongue, with the extension's coupler mounted 6" behind your trailer's coupler. The extension tube and housing are hot-dipped galvanized. There's really not much that can go wrong with the system.

Extend-a-Hitch carries a MSRP of $295 for the seven-foot model, with the 9-, 10- and 12-foot models going for $335, $355 and $395 (plus shipping), respectively. It's a practical answer to many launching problems.

Contact - Extend-A-Hitch, 510/733-3277,


Eyeglass wearers can have some annoying problems on bright days. Prescription sunglasses are expensive, and usually mean that you have to carry two pairs of glasses. Clip-ons work, but it's often difficult to find ones that fit your frames, and they can damage frameless lenses. Photochromic lenses (the kind that darken in bright light) are at best a partial solution—most don't really darken enough to do an effective job in really bright sunlight.

A company called Sun Spots provides an intriguing alternative—a sheet of gray-tinted plastic film from which you can custom-cut two lens-sized and shaped pieces. These adhere to your eyeglass lenses through static cling. There's no adhesive to come off on your lenses.

It's easy to cut the film to provide an exact fit: you place the 2-1/4" x 6" sheet over one of your lenses, and punch a set of closely spaced holes all around the lens's perimeter (a T-headed pin is provided.) Then cut along the perforations with a pair of sharp scissors. Repeat the process with the other lens. That's it. To apply, just place the Sun Spots on the (clean) lens. To remove, lift an edge and peel off. When you're not using the Sun Spots, you store them in a credit-card sized, water-resistant case.

We've tried them under a variety of conditions and they work just fine. If you're in a real gale, the film may start to lift from the lens. No problem. Just remove the Sun Spots and apply them to the inside of the lens. Both sides of the film adhere well, so that the Sun Spots work on either face of the lens, and you don't have to keep track of which lens the Sun Spot fits. If you have easily-scratched plastic lenses, applying Sun Spots to the outer surface will protect the lens. If your lens is glass, applying them to the inner surface will protect the film.

Sun Spots are washable with dishwashing liquid and water. They provide "moderate" UV protection, according to the SunSpot website. To darken the lens and provide more shading, you add another layer of film.

Contact - Sun Spots, 888/290-1879,

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