Video: Trailering & Launching
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Oh, hey! Thanks for helping us check our rig before we hit the road. Have you ever trailered before? Well, let’s start from the beginning.
Choosing Your Trailer
First, we make sure our load weight and size are matched between our boat, trailer, hitch, and vehicle. Everything matches up, including the ball hitch and the trailer coupler. Now, if you’ve ever seen a boat trailer in a ditch, a mismatched ball hitch and coupler may have been the cause. Which is why we also crisscross and attach the safety chains, so we can see that it’s secure.
One thing we can’t see is the weight on the tongue, which is also really important to consider. A portion of the loaded trailer's weight pushes down on the towing hitch. That’s called the tongue weight. This weight helps us tow without fishtailing or having problems steering our vehicle. Now, it’s time to get this rig properly loaded before we head out on the road.
Before Hitting the Road
We don’t want to lose our boat, so we check and secure the tie-down straps. We never trust the winch alone to secure the boat. We always use the tie-down straps as extra safety precautions. Make sure the hitch pin is in place, double-check the trailer brake lights and turn signals, check your tire pressure and lug nuts, and, finally, if your boat has an outboard engine, be sure it’s up and secured.
And when we’re on the road, we have to make wider turns because of the extra length of the trailer, and allow extra time and distance for stopping and passing vehicles. All right. You disconnect the trailer lights. I’ll go undo the straps, and we will start to launch.
Launching Your Boat
Whoa partner, not that one! The winch line stays attached until just before we back the boat off the trailer. Is there anything else we’re forgetting? Oh yeah! You don’t want to forget this little thing. You’d be surprised how much water can flow into a launched boat before someone realizes they forgot to put in their drain plug. So do yourself a favor and make sure yours is properly in place.
All right. The trailer lights are disconnected. The tie-down straps are undone. The drain plug is in place. The winch is still secure. There’s a rope tied to the bow. Halie’s going to drive. You are going to help with directions. And we are going to go through the rest of the launching procedure.
With our lifejackets on, we back the trailer far enough into the water that the boat is floating. We set the vehicle’s parking brake. The engine is lowered, started, and warmed up. The winch line is undone, and the boat is in reverse. And there you have it. We’re launched.
And after a day on the lake, we’ll need to retrieve our boat.
Retrieving Your Boat
Retrieving your boat is mostly the same deal as launching, just in reverse. Back the trailer in until 2/3 of the rollers, or bunks, are submerged. We put the vehicle in park and set the parking brake as an extra precaution. After that, the boat operator can drive the boat onto the trailer. And being a hot shot and trying to load your boat with engine power is a bad move. It does two things that can wreck the launch site for everyone. First, the prop can dig a hole behind the ramp where the trailers can get stuck.
And then, the mounded sand can get boats stuck. So, instead, once we position the boat on the trailer far enough to attach the winch line, we crank the rest of the way. There’s a lot of tension there, so stay out of the direct line of the winch cable in case something happens. Then, we shut off and raise the engine and ease it out.
Remember, a little courtesy goes a long way at the boat ramp.
Knowing whose turn it is to load is decided by the vehicles and their trailers, not where the boats are in the water. After you drop the vehicle driver onto land, wait offshore clear of the ramp and dock until your partner arrives with the vehicle and trailer. After we retrieve our boat, we always pull the car and boat off to the side, so we don’t block the ramp.
Heading home is pretty much the same deal as before—gear and strap secured, check the hitch lock pin, lights and chains, and finally, we pull the drain plug and remove any aquatic hitchhikers from the boat and trailer. We don’t want to spread a nuisance.
Awesome day out on the lake. Let’s head back home.