I have lost count of the number of miles I've traveled with boats in tow, and how many hours have been spent at launch ramps.
I have lost count of the number of miles I've traveled with boats in tow, and how many hours have been spent at launch ramps. This experience has provided me with the opportunity to evaluate numerous trailer configurations and to experiment with various methods of securing boats to trailers. One recent product I worked with is the BoatBuckle G2 Transom Retractable Tie-Down from IMMI Outdoor Division.
IMMI has been developing, testing and manufacturing restraint products for the cargo and marine industries since 1962. Its BoatBuckle system was designed for use with virtually any model boat, and incorporates features that make it more convenient to secure a boat for transport, according to company literature. The product features a "one touch free-spool mode" for one-handed operation, and a ratcheting tension adjustment for securing the boat.
The product appears to be well-designed and constructed of quality materials. The 5,000-pound rating of the model I tested (3,000 pounds for the stainless steel version) when used in pairs should be more than adequate for recreational-boat use. (I should note that the safe working load is 1/3 of the product's capacity.) Instructions included are concise and provide adequate cautionary statements for installation and use.
In use, the BoatBuckle G2 does work as advertised. However, the prospective purchaser should fully evaluate the installation and operational issues involved prior to purchase. None of the trailers I viewed would provide for straightforward installation of the BoatBuckle.
Unlike most conventional transom securing straps, installing the BoatBuckle requires that it be bolted directly to the trailer. Unfortunately, many trailers don't have rear cross members located at or near the boat transom, or eyes already installed for this use. Adaptation would require purchasing the Universal Mounting Kit in order to maintain the plus-or-minus 30-degree forward or backward pull angle of the web, as advised in the "Caution" section of the operating instructions. I prefer not to drill additional holes into galvanized trailer frames, as the holes invite corrosion.
Following installation on the trailer, connecting the device to the boat is a simple matter of depressing the release lever, extracting the web by pulling on the S-hook, and fastening the hook to the transom eye. Caution must be exercised in tightening the tie-down, as excessive force on the ratchet handle could overtighten the web, potentially damaging the mounting point on the boat, trailer or the BoatBuckle.
Since the entire BoatBuckle is bolted to the trailer, it will be submerged each time the boat is launched or retrieved. Where I typically boat, in the Northeast, the BoatBuckle will constantly be subjected to saltwater immersion and the resulting corrosion. Although there is a stainless steel version to decrease this problem, it too will require judicious washing and some form of dry lubricant to maintain smooth operation. Remember, any lubricant that isn't "dry film" will attract road dirt and grit, hindering the device's smooth operation.
My experience with ratchet tie-downs in general is that without frequent lubrication, the components become increasingly difficult to operate and, therefore, create the possibility of not being securely tensioned. The hook used for the transom eye attachment appears to be plastic coated, which should be effective initially, but after prolonged use it will start to wear through where it is secured to the transom eye, exposing the underlying steel to salt water.
Overall, the BoatBuckle appears to be a quality product that will certainly be useful for many trailer boaters. For my personal use, I prefer the less complex Kwik Lok adjustable tie-downs that can easily be removed from the trailer.
The BoatBuckle G2 has a typical mail order price of $59.99 for the steel version, $69.99 for stainless steel. IMMI Outdoor Division, Westfield, Ind. Phone: (888) 937-4626.