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The gooseneck is the swivel connection on a sailboat by which the boom attaches to the mast. The boom moves from side to side and up and down by swiveling on the gooseneck.

The gooseneck may be a two axis swivel as pictured. Having an integrated shackle for the tack is common. Goosenecks on older rigs may be formed by a loop attached to the end of the boom that fits loosely about the mast.

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Whether it's a gigantic RV or a herd of draft horses, if you're looking to do some major towing, you're going to need the right equipment to get the job done. This not only includes a serious pickup truck and a sturdy trailer, but a hardcore hitch as well. Class I and II hitches can be used for the lightest loads with simple drawbar systems. Class III and Class IV hitches will take you up to around 10,000 pounds (just under 4,536 kilograms) of gross trailer weight and are often handy if you're hauling campers and boats. Beyond that are the Class V hitches -- gooseneck hitches included -- that can handle up to around 30,000 pounds (about 13,000 kilograms).

Unlike regular hitches that extend from the back of the towing vehicle, gooseneck hitches, and the closely-related fifth wheel hitches, are anchored through the bed of a pickup truck. Gooseneck hitches use a hitch ball to lock into place, while fifth wheel hitches use a wheel-shaped plate to accomplish the connection. Besides their strength, gooseneck hitches are also popular because the types of trailers they pull are able to make tighter turns than the ones that connect off the back of the towing vehicle.

Depending on the model, gooseneck hitches generally cost a couple hundred dollars and an installation kit may or may not be included in that price. Some are easier to install on certain makes and models than others, so if you're the do-it-yourself type, you may want to take that into consideration. On the next page, we'll look at a few more factors to take into account while choosing a gooseneck hitch.

Choosing Gooseneck Hitches

If you're in the market for a gooseneck hitch, one must-have is the correct kind of trailer, because only a specific type can be attached to this sort of hitch. The trailer needs to be the sort that has an area in the front that sticks out from the rest of the trailer, sort of like the one below.

Another thing to consider is the issue of weight. Gooseneck hitches can handle quite a load, but it's important to double check whether they're up to the task by finding out the weight of the trailer, along with the weight of the trailer when it's fully loaded. A couple thousand pounds of trailer weight is one thing -- add a half dozen horses or a summer's worth of camping gear and you've upped the ante a bit. You also need to make sure your pickup is up to the challenge. Manufacturers can usually provide information on their vehicles' recommended towing capacities, but remember to give yourself a little leeway in case you need to add some cargo at the last minute or accidently calculate the weight of your load too low.

Installing Gooseneck Hitches

The process of installing gooseneck hitches varies depending on the brand, but the one thing every installation job has in common is the importance of following the directions to get everything done just right. Otherwise, you might glance out your rearview mirror only to watch your trailer fade off into the sunset the first time you try to take it for a spin.

To install a gooseneck hitch, sometimes a few modifications need to made to the truck. Most notably, a hole typically needs to be drilled through the center of the truck bed. This way the underlying frame can attach firmly to the hitch ball, which in many versions can be folded away or detached when there's no need for towing.