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Boating Basics

Trailering Your Vessel Safely


Before leaving home:

  • Secure all gear in the vessel and arrange it so that the weight is evenly distributed in the vessel.
  • Properly secure the vessel with several tie-down straps and/or safety lines to prevent it from shifting.
  • Tilt and secure the engine to increase clearance.
  • Crisscross the safety chains when attaching them to the towing vehicle.
  • Make sure the trailer brakes and lights are working.

On the road:

  • Think farther ahead on the road than usual: anticipate changes in traffic flow in advance; make wider turns at corners and curves; allow extra time and distance for stopping and for passing other vehicles; and remember the length added by your trailer.
  • Be aware that there may be lower speed limits for vehicles with trailers.

Launching your vessel from a trailer:

  • Prepare your vessel well away from the boat ramp.
  • Back the vessel into the water until the lower unit of the engine can be submerged while on the trailer.
  • Once the engine is warmed up, back the trailer further until the vessel floats. Then back slowly off the trailer.

Retrieving your vessel:

  • Back the trailer into the water so that approximately two-thirds of the rollers or bunks are submerged.
  • Move the vessel onto the trailer far enough to attach the winch line to the bow eye of the vessel. Finish pulling it onto the trailer by cranking the winch.
  • Tow the vessel off the ramp out of the way of others.
  • While at the ramp area, remove all weeds from the vessel, remove the drain plug, and drain live wells.

Practice these simple courtesies on the ramp:

  • Prepare your vessel for launching well away from the ramp.
  • Use at least two experienced people to launch and retrieve the vessel—one to drive the towing vehicle and one to operate the vessel.
  • Never block a ramp with an unattended vessel or vehicle. The vessel operator should move the vessel away from the launch lane immediately after removing it from the trailer. Return briefly to pick up the vehicle driver once he or she has parked and is at the ramp.
  • When retrieving, do not pull your vessel into a launch lane until the towing vehicle is at the ramp. The line is formed by vehicles with trailers, not by vessels in the water. Drop off the vehicle driver, and wait offshore and clear of the ramp until he or she arrives with the trailer.
  • After retrieving your vessel from the water, pull it out well away from the ramp before preparing the vessel for the drive home.