This article from 2016 was helpful to our readers so we are publishing it again. Share your trailering tips in the comments for next year’s article.
Hi everyone, Kate here! To catch some of you up, last winter our family bought our first boat, then got our safety certifications and joined Sea Tow last March, prepped the boat with the safety equipment mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard last April, then what?
May rolled around and it was time to get the Kiss Me Kate in the water! Since we were on a budget we decided to trailer our boat for the season, (the boat came with a bunk trailer.) One of our first (and probably worst) trailer “incident” occurred early in the season. On this day, the ramp we decided to launch from was located at a public beach so the pavement was covered with a thin layer of soft sand both in and out of the water which made it difficult to see. The ramp had a gentle incline and was shorter in length than some of the other ramps in the area.
The water level at the ramp was low which is no good when you have a bunk trailer, plus the layer of sand made the ramp difficult to see and back up straight so the left trailer tire slipped off the ramp and got stuck in the sand. Our trailer and boat was at the end of the ramp so the tire got caught on the lip of the ramp and our truck was unable to haul it out (ugh!) We had no option but to try to launch from where we were. The incline wasn’t steep enough for the boat to slide off the trailer when the winch cable released (a roller trailer would have had no problem), and it was low tide so the boat couldn’t submerged enough to pull itself off the trailer. We managed to rock and push her off the trailer with the help of our friends, get the truck and trailer free. Finally we got underway and had a super fun day!
Last summer proved to be a learning experience, but we learned as a family and had an amazing time. In the end that’s all that really matters!
Kate’s Top 10 Trailering Tips for Newbies
- Decide which trailer works best for your boating needs
- Bunk trailers are less expensive and better for deep water loading and unloading (you will need to back the trailer further into the water)
- Roller trailers are easier to load and upload in tidal waters (water levels vary at ramp)
- Ensure your trailer is in good working order
- Safety Chains
- Bunk slabs are lubricated (they have sprays for that)
- Ensure the towing capacity is adequate on your vehicle
- Practice maneuvering the trailer and tow vehicle
- Get used to the weight, pull, stopping distance, obstructed vision and noises- there are lots of noises!
- Check out ramp before trailering your boat there (See my Top 5 Things to Look for in a Boat Ramp)
- Ramp width
- Ramp length
- Water depth/level/tides
- Environment – sandy, paved, packed dirt, etc.
- Assess the winds, water depth and current so you can prepare your launch strategy
- Know Boat Ramp etiquette:
- Prep boat and trailer before backing onto the ramp
- Boats coming OFF the water get priority!
- Wait for your turn out of the way
- No cutting in line!
- Remove ALL straps except the bow winch line prior to backing down the ramp (or prepare to go swimming!)
- Trim the engine up all the way prior to backing down the ramp
- Ensure swim ladder (if used to board vessel) is stowed prior to backing down the ramp
And, ensure the boat plug is secured prior to backing down the ramp… but that’s a given…
Kate’s Top 5 Things to look for in a Boat Ramp
- Good Location
- Convenient to where you plan on boating
- Easy to find if you need assistance
- Easy Access
- Trailer Maneuverability
- Ample area for waiting vehicles
- Parking for tow vehicle and trailer
- Water Conditions
- Water level/Tides (IMPORTANT FOR BUNK TRAILERS!)
- Currents direction
- Good Ramp condition
- Longer Length
- Maintained regularly
- Wider width
- Clear of obstructions like environmental debris and sand/large rocks
- Good traction for tow vehicle
- Dock or Piling available
- This allows the boat to be launched and then tied up while the tow vehicle and trailer are parked.