How To Transport Properly

boat attached to pick-up truck

Trailers are primarily used to transport recreational boats to and from the water in the United States. Boaters must be aware of the trailering requirements and safety procedures and follow them accordingly. By failing to maintain a trailer, you risk damaging the boat or vehicle you are towing. This negligence creates a safety hazard for the other boats and vehicles.

Boaters can prevent accidents and reduce conflicts at boat ramps by mastering the following trailering skills:

  • Preparation for towing
  • Trailer towing and road handling
  • Launching the boat
  • Pulling a boat out of the water

Preparation for Safe Towing

Boaters must follow several procedures before towing a boat, no matter how far the trip is. Boat operators can prevent accidents and create hazards for other boaters and vehicles by taking these precautions before they tow:

  • Secure all bolts with washers and ensure the tow ball and coupler are the exact sizes. Couplers should cover balls completely. The latch mechanism should be locked.
  • Ensure all safety chains are attached.
  • Check that your tires (including the spare) and brakes are working correctly.
  • Towing vehicles need side mirrors that provide an unobstructed view on both sides.
  • When towing, secure all equipment inside the boat and tie down any boat covers so they won’t blow away.

Factors to Consider When Pulling a Trailer

Boaters must understand how to tow a trailer and how the boat’s weight can affect their vehicle’s handling.

Keep in mind that boat hulls are made for water, not roads. Supporting a boat across its hull ensures even weight distribution on a trailer. During complete “up” securement, the trailer should be long enough to support the entire length of the hull yet short enough to allow the engine to extend freely.

Balance the load from side to side and front to back. The tow vehicle’s rear wheels may drag if too much of the boat’s weight is concentrated on the hitch. Additionally, fishtailing may occur if the trailer has an excessive amount of weight on its back.

What are the Legal Requirements for Trailering?

A boat trailer needs a license plate, a registration, and working lights. In addition, watercraft with a width greater than 8.5 feet may require a special permit from the state’s Department of Transportation to be used on the highway.

Launching a Boat

Before the towing vehicle gets close to the ramp, do the following (away from the ramp area):

  • Be sure to remove all tie-downs and engine supports and lock the winch to the bow eye.
  • It is essential to install the drain plug.
  • It is advised to prepare dock lines, fenders, and boat hooks in advance. Attach a line to the bow and stern to make docking more manageable and keep the boat from floating away.
  • Trailer lights should be disconnected to prevent shortening the electrical system.

Upon approaching the launch ramp, the operator should look for hazards, like sharp objects, slippery areas, or steep drops. The tow vehicle should be slowly driven back to the ramp with one person at the water’s edge to help guide the driver. Take note that there is only one attachment to the boat’s bow as it is resting on the trailer.

Double-check that the drain plug is in and back the trailer into the water. Keeping the trailer’s rear wheels and the boat’s exhaust pipes out of the water will prevent the trailer from stalling. In the launching position, the driver should set the parking brake on the towing vehicle and put chocks behind the rear tires. This step must be carefully done to prevent movement. It is essential to check all the boat systems and the pumps, lights, blower, and bilge. As soon as you finish, lower the motor and start it up, ensuring the engine cooling system is working.

Standing on the shore, hold the lines attached to the boat, and release the winch. Disconnect the winch line from the bow. With a light push or by backing off the trailer under power, the boat can already be launched.

How do you retrieve a boat from the water?

The operator should inspect the shoreline as he approaches the takeout ramp for changes in current, tide, and wind direction or speed. In addition, it is crucial to consider any boating traffic increase, as this could make boat retrieval more challenging. Following the removal of the boat, the next step is to gently move it to the submerged trailer and raise the lower engine unit. 

It is crucial to winch the boat onto the trailer and secure it once it is on the trailer. From the ramp, the trailer with the boat can be moved to a designated parking area for cleaning, reloading, and preparation for towing. Remove the drain plug too.

Boaters can prevent the spread of invasive species by washing their trailers, boats, and engines with fresh water. Some launch areas have special washing stations. It is possible to obtain information regarding the locations and usage requirements of special washing stations from local marine patrol agencies.



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