Towing a sailboat without a trailer license plate

fastyacht

Super Anarchist
12,928
2,597
Calculated risk, or crazy? What happens? What happens out of state?
I don't do it, but I've seen it. Even 500 miles of it. But I've been pulled over within a mile of one falling off (not ticket--cop told me where he saw the plate!). What gives?
 

Foredeck Shuffle

More of a Stoic Cynic, Anarchy Sounds Exhausting
Well I think of it this way. I have several dinghies and several trailers. I used to move a plate around but as I got older and more stuff to have taken away should an accident occur and a civil lawsuit result from it, I decided to move the boats to trusts, tag and insure everything, and reduce the number of trailers I have around and use things like a triple stack that I can reconfigure to handle different dinghies and stick with the full sized one for the larger boats and sportboats.

TL;DR If poor, who cares. If you have some dough, retirement, etc, legally separate yourself from liabilities.
 

Santanasailor

Charter Member. Scow Mafia
1,357
707
North Louisiana
$500.00 in Louisiana if you are towing and don’t have a license plate. Not a bad idea to have working lights and a current registration (which goes along with the current license plates.) And, heaven forbid, if you are stopped by a Louisiana State Policeman and have plates on that are for another trailer. LSP don’t give no service man’s discount.

The State Police are pretty strict. I suspect the State Police are just as strict in Florida. When towing AnnaElesie, one pulled in behind us to make sure our lights worked when we had to slow down for a construction site. We have current plates and registration and working lights. No brakes, but the Santana 20 and trailer combined are below the required limit. (Heck, her wind resistance pretty much stops the entire ensemble, truck, boat and trailer.).
 

Monkey

Super Anarchist
10,892
2,513
Wisconsin doesn’t require plates on the trailers below a certain size. The only place we ever got stopped pulling our B-25 cross country to KWRW was in the Keys. No one else cared.
 

BrightAyes

Member
249
73
I learned to stop worrying about it in Texas. I took a 2000 mile towing trip this summer. In preparation, I tried to "get right" with the state officials and pay their penalty and taxes on full amount of trailer. When they informed me it would be more than value of the trailer with a straight face, I smiled and walked-away. Fact is, troopers rarely enforce this much anymore. It's more trouble than most want to pursue.
 

Rasputin22

Rasputin22
13,914
3,470
We were trailing a new 34' center console fishing boat that we were having the hulls built in Trinidad and finishing out in Bon Secour, AL. Sort of an evolution of the Trinidadian Pirouge that we had been building successfully at 23' but more of a 'poor mans' Contender with big twin Hondas for power. We were debuting the new boat at the Annapolis show and for some reason decided there would be less trooper scrutiny by taking the Bayway over to the DelMarVa peninsula at Norfolk. We had long since learned towing the smaller Sea Skiffs on untagged Alabama trailers to get an affidavit from the DMV corroborating the 'no tag' status in Alabama. This time we had the notarized affidavit for the 34'er but didn't have the permit for being over the 8'6'' legal towing width. The lapstrake slab sided hull design of the pirouge was 9'6" beam amidship and was at least a foot less beam than the other boats in our genre so though we could get away with it. Before we left out shop, we measured the beam at the transom at just under 8'6" and took a chance.

Just as we approached the first tunnel under the shipping channel about 5 miles out in the Chesapeake Bridge-Tunnel a Bride Cop turned his flashers on as we approached the small island that was at each end of the two tunnels. He didn't even bother to turn his cruiser on as we stopped just past where he was parked and probably napping. My buddy told me to just let him handle the situation. The Tunnel Trooper took a walkaround of the boat and trailer before asking for license, insurance and registration and was given those along with the trailer affidavit. He was pretty skeptical about the trailer free pass but let that go because he said that no wide load permit was far worse of a violation. By friend asked if he could get something out of the glove box and the officer agreed and out came a big Stanley 1' wide tape measure.

He pulled his own tape measure out with a grin and let us out and we all walked to the back of the boat where my buddy hooked his tape to one corner of the transom and pulled it across and pointed at the resultant dimension of just under 8'6" and smiled at the cop. He gave a look of disgust and asked what kind of fool we took him to be. He grabbed the big thick stiff tape from my buddy and told me to take the dumb end of the tape as he extended it across the full width of the boat amidship and measured 9'6" max beam. Busted! He was insulted that we thought we could fool him with our subterfuge at the transom and was ready to write us up for no permit-no escort. Would have left the boat and trailer locked up mid bridge until Monday or worse and we would have missed the whole boa show. He then asked if he could climb up and take a closer look at the new boat. It wasn't long until he started giving knowing nods at the boats features and admitted it was a pretty nice rig. My friend managed to dig up a couple of comp show tickets for the show which the cops was happy to accept and he gave up a hall pass so to speak with a warning to never try to pull our stunt on the Bay Bridge again and suggested we make our return to Alabama on the mainland!
 

CruiserJim

Anarchist
BITD, we had two boat trailers, one for the Santana 20 and one for a small skiff. We registered the S-20 trailer, which mostly sat in the yacht club dry storage lot, and switched the plate as needed. Eventually I mounted the trailer lights and the plate to length of 1x4 with 30’ of wire that we could just lash to whichever trailer or boat as needed. The light bar stayed nice and dry in the garage, so our lights always worked, avoiding unwanted attention from the man. The lights and plate might have been used on a few other rigs from time-to-time, but I think the statute of limitations has run. I don’t remember what California trailer registration cost in the late 70s to mid 80s, I’m sure it wasn’t a lot, but it was satisfying to stick it to the DMV, even for just a little bit.
 
We got pulled right before getting to the Yacht Club in Cleveland, Ohio after driving from Charleston, SC for no tags. Told the officer that we didn't need them them in SC. He held us until he could call to verify our claim. Fireball Nationals a long time ago!
 

Gouvernail

Lottsa people don’t know I’m famous
38,012
5,546
Austin Texas
Every trailer I tow has a legal current
License plate that covers that trailer.
The serial Number on the trailer ( in Texas) has to agree eith the serial number on the tag and a 10,000 lb trailers have to be inspected before a tag will be usfurd gor that trailer’s serial number.
For my smaller home built utility trailers there is no serial number, just a 3,500pound weight
Limit,
As I don’t like either paying fines or sitting stopped editing for traffic police to do whatever it is they must do when stopping motorists, I do my very best to present absolutely no reason to stop me.
 

EYESAILOR

Super Anarchist
3,535
1,968
I know a local sailor who is a stickler for making sure that his plates tie up with his trailer vin number in case he gets stopped.

He is careful to attach his license plate to the rear of the trailer , and his vin plate to the front tow bar.
 

fufkin

Super Anarchist
How about crossing the border into Canada with two Canadian owned Finns on a Czech built trailer with home built status Florida plates and zero paperwork. Straight to secondary it was.

Eventually a higher ranked customs officer was called over. He sized up the situation, told the junior officers to get back out there and get back to work. He then gave me one last stare down, thought about the mountain of useless paperwork, and told me to get lost before he changed his mind.
 

jesposito

Super Anarchist
All my trailer have plates, I do swap my Mako trailer plate on to my single Quad trailer.
Whenever I've been stopped they never ask for the Trailer Reg only the tow vehicle reg.
The cops have no clue what trailer are what.
For insurance purposes I would not tow a trailer without a plate.
 

Rasputin22

Rasputin22
13,914
3,470
I have a fully enclosed trailer for my sailplane. Odd looking thing with a fin sticking up at the very rear to house the vertical stabilizer of the sailplane. The tow van has Alabama plates and I figured I would just take the original Florida plate on the trailer off. I got pulled over in Alabama on the way to our soaring club one day and the trooper asked where my trailer plates were and I told him it was a 'boat trailer' and exempt from the plate and registration. He frowned and took another look at the trailer which looked more like a guided missile that anything less and asked what sort of boats I carried in it. I quickly answered, 'Kayaks and canoes'.

He made me walk back with him and open the front hatch behind which was the streamlined nose and plexi bubble canopy of my Russia AC-4 sailplane. He gave me a stern look and asked what kind of kayak that was. I told him it was an iceboat and he just walked back to his car and drove away...

1663084592690.png
 

Monkey

Super Anarchist
10,892
2,513
Boats and trailer do not necessarily have to be registered in the same state. My boat has a Wisconsin registration but the trailer is registered/licensed in Illinois. YMMV
My current trailer that does actually need a license plate, still doesn’t have one. Strategically placing the oversized load signage over where the plate goes has worked so far. The fine is so adorably cheap in our state I haven’t worried about it.
 

Somebody Else

a person of little consequence
7,641
805
PNW
When I was younger and cockier and less respectful of just about everything, I got away with murder re: legal transportation of cars, boats, trailers, masts... you name it.

I can only attribute my successful evasion of prosecution to luck and the fact that -- except for the cars, I guess -- it was all small potatoes as far as law enforcement was concerned.
 

gbkersey

Member
202
93
Austin, TX
I have a fully enclosed trailer for my sailplane. Odd looking thing with a fin sticking up at the very rear to house the vertical stabilizer of the sailplane. The tow van has Alabama plates and I figured I would just take the original Florida plate on the trailer off. I got pulled over in Alabama on the way to our soaring club one day and the trooper asked where my trailer plates were and I told him it was a 'boat trailer' and exempt from the plate and registration. He frowned and took another look at the trailer which looked more like a guided missile that anything less and asked what sort of boats I carried in it. I quickly answered, 'Kayaks and canoes'.

He made me walk back with him and open the front hatch behind which was the streamlined nose and plexi bubble canopy of my Russia AC-4 sailplane. He gave me a stern look and asked what kind of kayak that was. I told him it was an iceboat and he just walked back to his car and drove away...
Reminds me of the Texas Parks and Wildlife officer that asked me how long my boat was (under 14 feet does not require registration in Texas). I told him 5.2 meters, sir. He said well I guess I'll have to let you go....
 

Latest posts




Top