Product Reviews

Launching Gear
Launching Gear

by Al Campbell


If you own a personal pontoon boat, you know just how heavy it can be when you want to get it to the water or back to your vehicle. You either have to load it while it's floating in the water, load it on land and drag those costly pontoons across the rocks to the water, or try to be Superman and carry the thing. No matter how you do it, it isn't a simple process. That is, until now.

Last spring (I think it might have been April) the folks who build a product called "Launching Gear" sent me a sample of their product to evaluate and review for you. A lot of things happened between then and now that prevented me from trying it out, but I finally had a morning to give it a try. Dana and Bob, forgive me for taking so long. Those obligations weren't fishing; and if they had been, or if I had been able to enjoy my usual June Bighorn River trip, I would have had this review written long before now.

The first thing I noticed about the Launching Gear is the weight. It is amazingly light. At 7.5 pounds, the only noticeable weight (about half the weight) is the rubber tire. The rest is aluminum. It appears every consideration was made to reduce as much weight as possible while retaining the strength and structural integrity of the product.

I also quickly noticed the professional craftsmanship. The guys who make this tool are former Primex Technologies employees who put their skills to work in the precision sheet metal business after a series of merger and acquisition moves. All the bends are precise, the edges of the metal are smooth, all the metal cuts are perfect and look like they were stamped out by a machine, and the welding is aircraft grade perfect. To say I am impressed by the craftsmanship would be an understatement.

Attaching the gear to my Waterskeeter River Tamer Deluxe pontoon boat was easy. I tipped the boat over on its top and slid the gear into place under the seat with the tire facing the rear. Each Launching Gear is designed specifically for your boat, so the fit is perfect. All I had to do was position the gear on the frame and tighten the bolts so that the built-in clamping mechanism would clamp down on the frame. The mechanism is designed to clamp around the frame without damaging the finish, and it did just that. If they had used U-bolts or if the aluminum edges would have been sharp, the frame of my pontoon or the finish would have been damaged, but they designed this thing to prevent any damage at all. It took maybe five minutes to attach it to my pontoon boat's frame, including the time it took me to get my ratchet and wrench.

In the stowed position, the wheel is about four to six inches off the ground when on dry land. Depending on how you load your boat, how much stuff you have on the cargo rack, and how much you weigh, the tire should ride a few inches into the water, about the center of the wheel. They thought about that, and everything including the wheel's bearings are waterproof. Water can't hurt the Launching Gear.

When the wheel is down, it lifts the pontoon boat about a foot off the ground. I loaded my River Tamer with about 100 pounds of gear, including a 12-pound anchor, and tried to roll it around on my driveway and in some gravel. At first I tried using the pontoons as handles, but they flex too much. Then I grabbed the foot pegs and rolled it around like a wheelbarrow. That was the ticket. I can roll it fully loaded over gravel, down my driveway and even over the rocks on the shore of a local trout lake. I didn't tip it once.

There is one thing I don't like about the Launching Gear, and I don't see how they can change it. When I got the pontoon boat in the water, I had to reach under the seat to remove the pin so I could stow the wheel. It was a bit like stumbling around blind trying to remove the pin and re-insert it in the other hole to stow the wheel. I think that task would be better done on dry land where a dropped pin could be easily retrieved. They tell you to lift the end of the boat to do this, but I had it fully loaded for my test, so reaching under the seat was easier than lifting. One nice thing was that the wheel floats, so I didn't have to lift the wheel and insert the pin at the same time. Coming out of the water I drug the boat up on land and tipped it on its side to lower the wheel. No way I'm going to lift a hundred pounds of stuff to lower or raise the wheel.

With the wheel lowered, it rolled up the bank a lot easier than I thought it would. It cleaned up pretty easy after I got home too. All I had to do was hose it off. The pontoons on my River Tamer don't clean up that easy.

These pictures were taken on my driveway before I loaded the cargo rack. I needed all the light I could get, and the coolers and such would have been in the way of that. I loaded it with all the gear I would have taken with me on a float trip down the Bighorn River so I could see if there was anything I didn't like about the Launching Gear. Except for the pin for stowing and lowering the wheel, everything else was flawless and performed better than I expected it to. From now on, I'll just lower or stow the wheel on dry land next to the water where I can kneel down next to the boat and tip it on its side. I like the idea of loading my cargo at the vehicle, so I'll continue to load it before I roll it to the water.

These photos are of the LG5 model for Waterskeeter, and retails around $129.00. ~ AC

DaBob Precision Sheetmetal
P.O. box 453
Indianola, WA 98342
Phone: 360-297-4316
Email: dado17@centurytel.net
Website: www.launchinggear.com



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