When an F350 is *not* enough… due to operator error

We decided to pull our 10,000 lb water-ski jump out last night. Jason brought an F350 dually (6×4) powered by a mammoth diesel engine. We took the trailer hitch receiver off of Terry’s truck and discovered that it was a bit lacking in size, so much so, that the corresponding pin wouldn’t work. We determined that we would have to make due with a carriage bolt hooking the ill-sized hitch receiver in place. The Y-shaped towing tongue was installed on the front of the jump and it was time to get everything hooked up.

Even with the slight lowering of the ball via the trailer hitch receiver it sat really high. We pushed the jump out into the river a bit to clear a path for the F350, which would have to go deep into the water in order to slide the hitch over the ball. When we successfully hitched it up I asked if we should install a pin in place to lock it together. Mike noted that this wasn’t needed in the past so we continued on. (The F350’s back wheels were half under water and the front wheels were just clear of the end of the ramp and the nasty super slick green moss.)

I was ready to see the big F350 rock and roll. A bunch of us jumped in the bed of the F350 to weight down the rear tires. We told Jason to hit it and we moved ahead but were quickly stopped when the jump tires collided with the ledge that forms the edge of the launching ramp. The back tires spun, rubber burned, and we went nowhere. A running start was needed. We backed up and kicked off round two. The running start helped but the F350 was still stopped dead in its tracks. Jason got out of the truck to investigate, but quickly returned to the truck since it started rolling ominously toward the river. We decided to try one more running start with plenty of Ford power.

The truck lunged forward resembling a fit of rage and the jump tires hit the end of the ramp hard, the ramp bounced, and the large 16″ thick foam floatation pieces broke off the ramp frame. However, the effort was futile since the jump once again stopped us dead. We pulled all the large foam pieces that had broken off out of the way (which weighed quite a bit given their waterlogged state). It became clear that we were fully committed to removing the jump now; otherwise it would now sink faster than the Titanic.
We had another problem. All along we suspected that the front wheels were doing nothing and that is why the big Ford struggled so much. On the last attempt, it was confirmed that the 4×6 mode was *not* powering the front tires. (Four wheel drive is critical given the loose stones and wet concrete present on a boat launching ramp.) We determined that the F350 needed some Chevy help. Terry’s Chevy was connected to the front of the F350 (making a train) and two more attempts were made. This didn’t really help since Terry had to pull both the huge F350 and the jump.

It was time for another approach and it should be noted that daylight was quickly expiring. We kept the F350 in the middle and had Terry’s pickup tied to one corner of the jump and Mike’s minivan to the other corner of the jump. Frank and I weighed down the F350’s back tires. Hit it! All three vehicles battled forward and the ski jump bounced over the ledge and started up the launching ramp. The trailer hitch tongue broke loose of the F350 and slammed down onto the ground. Terry’s rope broke and only Mike’s rope (no stronger than a ski line) kept the jump from roaring down the ramp into the river. Terry quickly crawled behind the jump and blocked the jump tires earning a medal of bravery.

After a discussion of the options a determination was made to not jack up the tongue for reattachment to the F350. The F350 was tied to the tongue and Terry’s pickup was also reconnected. This approach was successful and the ski jump was now free of the incline of the launching ramp. The remaining movement, placement, and parking of the jump was uneventful. The saturated foam pieces were moved with the F350 via two trips and stacked on the deck of the ski jump. Jason left and took the F350 to the car wash for a much needed cleaning.

It was very dark when we were done with the ski jump and consequently, we didn’t get to ski. Considering all the things that could have gone wrong (slipping on nasty green moss; carriage bolt failure; last rope breaking, jump rolling into river and sinking; F350 rolling into river…) we got off pretty easy.

*** Update ***
There was no problem with the F350’s 6×4 operation. Our operator forgot to lock the front hubs, which differ from the F150s which lock electronically.

5 thoughts on “When an F350 is *not* enough… due to operator error

  • October 11, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    The only thing that would have made this better would have been video

  • October 11, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    If you ever need to borrow Sara’s Ford Escort, just let me know. ;-)

  • October 12, 2005 at 9:46 am

    You know on real trucks like Chevrolet you do not have to lock the hubs manually on their 1 ton dually’s. It is done when you select 4×4 mode and decide on low or high range.

  • October 12, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    Glad to hear that not much has changed with the ski club. I would not have expected a better story. Hope to be back skiing with everyone beginning in June. Miss you all!

  • June 20, 2007 at 1:23 am

    If the Ford buyer hadn’t got cheap he would have received electronic hubs. They’re available but you have to pay a couple hundred dollars or so more for your truck to get them. Maybe Ford’s just being cheap, but, when you’re buying a $40,000+ truck, why would you go without?

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