Launching a boat from a trailer into the water doesn’t have to be a nail-biting experience if you take a methodical approach. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to how to launch a boat from a trailer with all the skill of an experienced mariner.
Every boat is unique, but when it comes to launching, the basic principles tend to be the same. We’re going to assume you have a friend or family member who can assist you, that you’re launching from a ramp, and that there is a dock you can secure the boat to.
- Check safety chains and coupling
The last thing you want is for the trailer to be launched along with the boat. Make sure the trailer is securely hitched to the towing vehicle and that safety chains are attached. Disconnect the cable powering the tail-lights, so they don’t short-circuit in the water.
- Inspect the boat ramp
This is an important part of boat launch safety. Check the ramp for potential hazards such as submerged sharp objects, steep drop-offs and slippery algae patches.
- Prime the boat for launch
Attach the trailer winch hook to the boat’s bow eye, and undo and stow away the hold-down straps. Inspect the drain plugs to make sure they are screwed in tightly. Get the dock lines and fenders ready for use. If you have an outboard, trim it up so it won’t drag on the bottom.
- Get assistance
Before reversing down the boat ramp, make sure your assistant is standing where you can see them and where they can see directly behind your boat. This will minimise the chance of injury or damage to your own boat, or to someone else’s.
- Start reversing
Put the towing vehicle in low gear and slowly reverse the boat trailer down the ramp. Apply gentle pressure to the brakes and make small course corrections as you go, using mirrors for guidance. This will help keep the trailer from jackknifing.
A popular technique is to keep one hand palm-up against the bottom of the steering wheel and use it to make fine steering adjustments.
- Find your stopping point
Be careful not to reverse the trailer too far into the water as it could get bogged. Stop reversing when the boat starts to achieve buoyancy, which will be indicated by the stern rising from the trailer bed.
This is a good time for your helper to climb up into the boat. At your final stopping point, apply slightly more pressure to the brakes so that the boat’s own mass gently pushes it into the water. Make sure the winch cable is detached just prior to this.
- Get it afloat
Apply the towing vehicle’s handbrake, walk to the boat and push it gently into the water. Get your helper to toss you the dock line so you can secure the boat to shore. Now you’re ready to set sail!
Matching the right trailer with your boat will ensure a smoother launch. See our six top tips on how to choose the right one.