Study Topics
Boats in Action Section Quiz Site Map
Boat Transport & Trailering
Launching and retrieving the boat

Getting There (In One Piece)
The first thing you should remember when towing a trailer is that you are towing a trailer. That may sound obvious, but when the car is humming merrily along it can be easy to forget the trailer is back there. Slow down! Reducing speed gives you more time to react and reduces the strain on
the car and trailer. Swing wider at corners so your trailer doesn’t hit the
curb, and remember to allow extra space when you pass other cars.

The additional weight of a trailer dramatically affects braking, so leave considerably more distance than you normally would between your car and the car in front of you.

Rely on lower gears rather than brakes to reduce speed when driving downhill. Some states have separate speed limits for cars pulling trailers, and you should also be alert to signs restricting trailers.

On trips, make it a habit to check the wheel hubs every time you stop for gas. If one hub feels hotter than the other,
or if both feel abnormally hot, the bearings should be inspected before you continue the trip. Straps holding the boat,
lug nuts on the tires, and structural nuts and bolts on the trailer frame should also be examined to make sure they’re tight. If it is raining, check the boat’s cover for pooling water, which could affect weight distribution and make the car more difficult to handle.

Launching the Boat
Let's suppose you’ve managed to negotiate the
gauntlet of potholes, slick spots and traffic snarls without mishap. The trailer held together. You have arrived at the launch ramp.

If the ramp is crowded, and it usually is on weekends, don’t despair; use the extra time to prepare your boat and trailer before it is your turn to launch. Make sure the lower unit is raised to avoid scraping; install the drain plug; release the securing straps; disconnect the trailer's lights; and rig a line so the boat doesn’t drift away after it is launched.

If you are stepping a mast, make sure there are no overhead power lines between you and the ramp.
If you don’t have bearing protectors, make sure
hubs are cool.

Next, you'll have to back the trailer onto the launch ramp. To a novice, backing a trailer can be like standing on your head and reading a book upside down in a mirror. It takes practice. Learning can be rough on the blood pressure - yours and the other people at the ramp waiting patiently (or impatiently) to launch their boats.

To avoid disagreeable encounters with your fellow boaters, practice backing the trailer in the quiet safety of your driveway or, better yet, an empty parking lot.
Tip: push the bottom of the car's steering wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go.

Keep a tire stop handy, leave the car's engine running in case you need power quickly, and don’t forget your parking brake! That may seem elementary, but when
a particular boater in Tennessee got careless, his truck and trailer rolled down the ramp and didn’t stop until they were in 60' of water. It must have been a long walk home.

Retrieving the Boat
Now that you've enjoyed your time on the water, it's time to go home. When you get to the ramp, good manners are very important! If there are other boaters launching or leaving, you must wait your turn. When your turn comes, you must be ready to move quickly. Start by getting all of your gear ready to take off the boat, and get your boat ready to go on the trailer. If you have the option, let someone off the boat to get the trailer to the water while you or the other people aboard take the gear off. at the ramp waiting patiently (or impatiently) to launch their boats.

Before you back down the trailer, make sure the trailer lights aren't connected to the tow vehicle. If the trailer has
a tilting trailer bed, put it in the up position. Slowly back the trailer into the water, and use the boat's bow and stern lines to line the boat up with the trailer. at the ramp waiting patiently (or impatiently) to launch their boats.

Attach the winch cable to the boat, and start cranking! Be careful that no one is in the direct line of the winch cable--
if it breaks you can be seriously injured from the whiplash. After you have the boat all the way on the trailer, attach the safety chains and pull the boat the trailer forward--make sure your engine is raised first! at the ramp waiting patiently (or impatiently) to launch their boats.

Once you've cleared the ramp area, make sure all lose gear is stowed, attach the tie-down straps, and reconnect the trailer lights to the tow vehicle, and hit the road. at the ramp waiting patiently (or impatiently) to launch their boats.

NOTE - While many people drive the boat onto the trailer, it isn't advised. Using the engine to assist trailering erodes the ramp bed, can lead to debris being sucked into the engine, and can cause an accident!

Make sure you drain all water from the boat - the bilge, the live well, the trailer lights, etc. Trailer boats are a leading cause of the spread of invasive species. Make sure your boat is cleaned thoroughly before you launch your boat again, particularly if you go to a different body of water.
The best thing to do would be to clean your boat at the ramp. If you can't, try to make sure that when you do
wash, the water doesn't go into a drain that feeds into
a sewer that feeds into a different body of water.