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How to Launch a Boat from Your Trailer

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Make sure your boat gets in the water... and your vehicle stays out of it! Photo: WordShore

Make sure your boat gets in the water… and your vehicle stays out of it! Photo: WordShore

Launching a boat from your trailer isn’t necessarily difficult, especially once you do it a few times. There are several steps, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have your boat in the water in no time. Here, we’ll walk you through simple steps on how to launch a boat from your trailer.

Keep in mind that you may have to modify these steps depending on your specific ramp and dock. These steps assume there’s at least one dock and a boat ramp.

  1. Prepare the engine, fuel, safety gear, mooring lines, fenders, etc. before approaching the ramp. You should be ready to drive the boat away immediately after getting it into the water.
  2. Unplug the towing light assembly.
  3. Put the drain plug in the boat.
  4. Undo and stow the hold down straps, but be sure to leave the winch hook in the bow eye.
  5. Make sure your dock lines and fenders are easily accessible.
  6. Begin backing the trailer into the water. It’s best if one person drives the car while another is a spotter. Keep the car in neutral, this way if something goes wrong, you can quickly put the car in drive and pull forward. A good rule of thumb is to back in until the water is just above the hubs on the trailer.
  7. Set the emergency brake, then the parking brake before exiting the car.
  8. For boats with outboard and inboard-outboard engines, lower the lower unit.
  9. Turn on the bilge blower and remove any gasoline fumes that have accumulated in the bilge.
  10. Before starting the engine, be sure no other boats are in the area. Make sure the engine is in the water and start the engine. Once it’s running, undo the winch hook from the bow eye, and back the boat out of the trailer.
  11. Tie the mooring lines to cleats on the dock to secure the boat, and slowly drive the vehicle forward to pull the trailer out of the water. Docks are often slippery, so make sure the wheels do not spin. Consider using four-wheel drive if you have it. Park the car in the parking lot, and have fun!

If you’re a visual learner, check out the video below, which details how to launch a boat from your trailer. Consider bringing a veteran boater along to help you your first time. You’ll be the veteran before you know it!