Boat Launching will become a simple task with a little practice. However, if you are new to boating you might want to hitch up your boat trailer and head to an empty parking lot to gain some practice. I don’t recommend arriving at the boat ramp and attempt any boat launching before you know how to reverse a trailer.
Let's dive right in and look at boat launching.
How to Approach Boat Launching
So, before getting into boat launching itself let’s look at some of the principles of reversing a trailer …
Start with your vehicle and the trailer as straight as possible and about a trailer’s length from the area into which you want to reverse. Watch the trailer out of the driver’s window while reversing slowly, and start turning the steering wheel to the right.
Be gentle with the steering – it is easier to add more steering than to correct it too much. Some guides to reversing suggest grasping the steering wheel at the very bottom.
This should prevent you from over-turning the wheel. And if your steering wheel is in a straight position to start with, you will know throughout the reversing maneuver, without having to look, that at the lowest point your steering wheel is again straight.
As soon as the trailer starts to turn you can begin straightening up while still reversing. Don’t leave straightening up too late or the trailer will jackknife.
Eventually you begin steering in the other direction while still reversing. Bring the vehicle’s nose around to follow the trailer and keep an eye on where the trailer is in case it needs correction.
Continue to reverse in a straight line using the side mirrors. Reverse slowly and carefully. When more of the trailer appears in one mirror, steer towards that mirror to start the trailer going the other way.
Remember that a correction only requires a small steering movement.
Pulling forward to straighten the trailer is often an easy option before continuing to reverse.
Once you are able to back up a few hundred feet without jackknifing your trailer or rear-ending anything you are probably ready to attempt boat launching at a boat ramp. If possible, select a quiet weekday morning for your first launch.
First Rule of Boat Launching
The first rule of boat launching is being prepared before you pull onto the launching ramp.
Before boat launching that means having all your gear safely stowed, the boat key in the ignition, the boat drain plug in, and the tie-down straps off. As well the trailer lights should be disconnected and a safety line connected to the boat's bow.
It can be very frustrating watching someone loading fishing or picnic gear into their boat. Or apply sunscreen to their kids while their boat is parked on the launch ramp!
Winch and Chain
While boat launching keep the trailer's winch strap and safety chain connected until you reach the water's edge. It will only take a few seconds to disconnect them prior to launching.
During boat launching back the boat down the launch ramp and stop before the stern of the boat hangs over the water. Unlock the winch strap and remove pins or other devices used to prevent the outboard motor from tipping down.
Now back the boat down until the trailer wheels are submerged.
Boat Launching and Float Off
When the boat is ready to float off the trailer, have your boating buddy hold the bowline. Or tie the line to your vehicle or winch handle.
Once the boat launching is complete and the boat has floated free of the trailer either beach the boat or tie it off to the dock with the bowline.
A confident boater will have someone start the motor and move the boat away from the dock until the driver has parked the vehicle and is ready to board.
Either way, when boat launching, try to launch quickly as a courtesy to your fellow boaters.
The same rules for boat launching apply when putting your boat back onto the trailer. But there are a few hazards you should be aware of. Especially if you're tired or feeling rushed.
When you tie up at the dock, have your vehicle keys in your pocket, retrieve your vehicle and claim a spot in line.
Before you pull your boat out of the water ensure the engine has been tilted up.
Many boat launching problems will be avoided by making sure everything on your boat is in working order before you leave home!
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