As you already know, your trailer is an important part of being able to tow your boat to the ramp, get it into the water, remove it from the water, and get it home. It is vital that you never neglect your trailer and make sure to keep up with routine maintenance to ensure your boat trailer is never left in a position where it could break down or become a safety hazard for you. Once you are comfortable that your trailer is in good condition, then and only then, can you start to think about towing your boat.
One of the essential activities that a boat engages in is launching the boat and then retrieving the boat from the water. This is an activity that will definitely set aside the seasoned from the unseasoned. We won’t lie to you, doing it the first few times may be a bit difficult for you, but with practice, you are sure to improve and get it all down pat like a pro in no time.
As we mentioned, practice makes perfect, and with practice comes the skills you need to make sure your boat is launched and retrieved correctly. Improper launching or retrieving can lead to damage to your tow vehicle, boat, or trailer. Over time, you will start to develop a routine for yourself, and this routine will help you stay on track.
On a side note, if you are new to trailering, launching, and retrieving your boat, you may want to choose an off time to visit the ramp and practice. This way, you do not find yourself getting too excited or stressed out while others are present and watching or rushing you. It helps to practice in an off time first and then try your hand at a busy ramp to see how you do. Keep in mind that everyone was a newbie at one point in time, but we get it, no one likes to be the newbie.
Below, we will go over some simple hacks to help make sure that you can trailer, launch, and retrieve your boat as safely as possible.
How to Launch Your Boat
Before you launch your boat or even drive it to the ramp, you want to make sure that you have inspected your boat and trailer to make sure that it is ready and safe to take out on the water and to the ramp. Often, boaters will skip this step or they will check the boat but not the trailer and then find themselves on the side of the road with a flat tire or another issue. Don’t end up being that boater and make sure you take some time to inspect your boat and trailer BEFORE you leave the house.
Below, you will find some hacks to help you get your boat launched quickly and safely.
1. Load Up and Install the Plug
The first thing you want to do when you arrive at the ramp is to find a parking spot that is far away from the ramp or at least a safe distance from the ramp. You will want to prepare your boat for launch before you actually get it to the ramp so you should pull over to do this. While preparing your boat won’t take long, it is not a good idea to do this on the ramp itself as you will only frustrate those around you waiting to use the ramp. Spare yourself the headache and just par to prepare your vessel.
To prepare your boat, you want to gather everything you plan to take on the water and load it onto the boat. This does include your gear. Make sure everything you will need is equipped as well such as life jackets, towels, etc. Do not leave anything behind at the ramp unless you want to because getting back to the ramp and running to the car is not an option once out on the water.
Once your boat is loaded up, grab the drain plug and install it. You should also remove your safety straps from the boat at this time.
2. Get Your Vehicle in the Right Position
You might not believe it, but your vehicle’s position matters A LOT. A vehicle that is in the wrong position can lead to a lot of trouble on the ramp. Instead of getting frustrated and having to try over and over again, simply get your vehicle lined up the first time for a flawless launch.
You should position your vehicle so that you can back up straight into the water. You want to make sure no one else is on the boat ramp and if it is a dual boat ramp or a larger ramp for several vehicles, make sure you keep an eye on other pedestrians.
To back up straight into the water, make sure you drive next to the boat landing in a position that is parallel to the shoreline. You then want to turn your vehicle in the direction away from the boat landing, which will make your trailer and boat perpendicular to the edge of the water.
Your entire goal here is to make sure that your trailer and tow vehicle are straight so that backing up is seamless and easy. Don’t be afraid to have someone help guide you if needed.
3. Back Up
Once you have lined your vehicle and trailer up, you can start to back up at this time. We recommend someone help you at this point, but if you do need to launch solo, simply make sure you are extra careful throughout the whole process. It is not impossible to do it on your own, it just helps to have someone assist you.
The entire time you back up, focus on keeping the vehicle and trailer straight.
4. Don’t Put the Winch Under Water
As you back down the boat ramp, go as slowly as possible and keep your foot on the brake the entire time. You should apply the brakes as you do move in reverse. Ease yourself into the water and do not put the winch into the water. With the boat winch and tongue out of the water, place your vehicle in park and apply the parking brake.
5. Release the Winch
Get out of the tow vehicle and make sure to release the trailer winch hook. You will then want to tie a tow rope to the boat and have someone hold onto it for you. If you do not have someone to hold it, you can tie it to one of the posts on the ramp. Make sure to tie it tightly so that it will stay once you let go.
Of course, make sure that you have enough room in the rope to continue to back up. You should leave a good couple of feet for yourself. If the rope looks too tight, add some slack to it.
6. Continue to Back Up
Get back into your tow vehicle and release the parking brake. Continue to reverse and back into the water slowly. Once you notice that the back of the boat starts to float, you should stop your vehicle. You do not want to back in any farther than once the stern of the boat floats as you will damage your tow vehicle.
Place your tow vehicle into park once again and apply the parking brake.
7. Remove the Boat from the Trailer
Now you will want to use the tow rope to guide the boat off of your trailer. Once the boat is removed from the trailer, you can have someone hold the rope or you can tie it to the dock once again.
8. Park Your Tow Vehicle
Okay, so you got your boat launched and now you will need to get back into your tow vehicle, release the parking brake, and then slowly drive your vehicle and trailer from the water. You can now park your tow vehicle and trailer and go enjoy some fun on the water.
How to Retrieve Your Boat
After you have had a good day out on the water, it is time to retrieve your boat and get it back on the trailer. Check out these steps to help you do so.
9. Get into Position
Just as you did before, you want to get your tow vehicle and trailer into position to back up. Remember, you want your vehicle and trailer to be as straight as possible. Take your time doing this and reposition yourself as needed to ensure you achieve a straight position.
10. Back Up
Once in position, back your trailer into the water until about two-thirds of the bunks or rollers are submerged in the water. You do not want to go too far into the water and damage your tow vehicle, so go slowly and be as cautious and careful as possible. Remember, leave the winch OUT of the water. It does help to have someone directing you, but if this is not possible, simply go as slow as you can and take your time.
Once you have the trailer in the water, you should put the vehicle in park, and then apply the parking brake. Do NOT forget to set the parking brake on your vehicle.
11. Guide the Boat onto the Trailer
Now you are ready to start getting your boat up onto the trailer. Everyone on the boat will need to exit the boat. If you have someone to help you, great, as this can be a bit of a difficult process, but if not, it is possible to do it on your own.
You will want to use the tow rope and guide the boat onto the trailer. It is best to slowly and carefully use the boat’s motor to guide yourself onto the trailer and then turn the power off and guide the boat the remainder of the way.
Once the boat is far enough up on the trailer, you can attach the winch to the boat and then pull it up the rest of the way utilizing the winch. You should remain a safe distance from the winch line just in case anything goes wrong such as the line snapping or failing.
Tip: While you can use the boat motor to help you get up to the trailer, you should NEVER use the boat motor to put the entire boat on the trailer as this can lead to damage to the boat and the trailer.
Once you have pulled the boat up, turn the engine off (if it is not) and then raise the engine up.
12. Pull the Boat Out of the Water
Get into your tow vehicle, release the parking brake, and slowly pull your boat and trailer from the water.
Once you have the boat and trailer out of the water, pull over into a safe parking spot, and remove the drain plug from the boat. You will want to do a quick inspection of the boat to remove any weeds or debris on the boat.
13. Secure the Boat and Head Home
Once the drain plug is removed, you will want to take the time to secure your boat to the trailer so that you can drive home. Remove any gear that could fly out of the boat as you do not want it to end up on the road.
Before You Hit the Road
After your boat is on the trailer, you do not want to immediately head out of the parking lot and go home. Remember, you need to secure the boat, but more importantly, you want to do the following:
14. Inspect the Trailer and Boat
Before you head out on the road, do make sure that you walk around your boat and trailer to make sure that there is nothing obviously wrong with it. You want to ensure that your trip home will be safe and without any issues.
You should check your tire pressure to ensure your tires are inflated to the proper PSI and also check to make sure your lights are working. You should have someone stand behind the vehicle to tell you if your turn signals and brake lights on the trailer are working.
Of course, always make sure, double-check, and triple-check that your boat is secured on the trailer and is sitting at an even angle.
15. Stay Legal
Before you pull away from the ramp and head back home, you should make sure that your boat, trailer, and tow vehicle are all within county, city, and state regulations to operate on the road. Everyone has different legal requirements, so it will be up to you, the boat owner, to make sure that you are in compliance with those laws.
Taking Care of Your Trailer After Boating
Getting your boat home may feel like such a relief and guess what, you successfully launched and retrieved your boat from the water.
Now that you are parked and home, it is time to take care of your boat and trailer after the day out. You should always rinse off your boat and the trailer to ensure no salt water is left over. Salt can lead to rust on the metal parts of your trailer thus leaving it in need of repair and replacement.
Cover up your boat and trailer with a cover to protect it from the outside elements and to protect it from theft at the same time.
Make Trailering, Launching, and Retrieving Easy to Do
A trailer that is well maintained will allow you to launch and retrieve your boat at the ramp easily and safely. Always make sure that you are taking the proper steps to put the boat into the water and remove it from the water. Not following the proper steps can lead to damage to the boat or trailer or can result in injury.
By making sure your trailer is in good working order and practicing launching and retrieving, you will get the hang of it and be able to do it perfectly, flawlessly, and safely every time you take your boat out.