Are you a newbie boat owner who is about to launch your boat by yourself for the first time? You are most likely to have mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness. Who wouldn’t? Launching a boat with the help of other people is so much easier but you can’t always rely on them. You also need to learn to do it by yourself in case no one is around to help you.
No need to get stressed out, we will show you how you can launch your boat with this easy step-by-step guide. Apart from that, we will tell you what you need to do before launching the boat to ensure you’ll do it right and safely launch the first time.
Even if you are not a newbie boater, preparation is always the key to a more efficient and hassle-free boat launch. Now, preparation starts at home, even before you reach the boat launch parking lot. So, the first step is at-home boat preparation.
Boat Prepping at Home
Before even leaving the house, you need to ensure that everything is all set, especially if you are to launch your boat alone. You don’t have anyone to help you out when you’ve already reached the launching area in case you forgot something or you have a boat problem. To eliminate those concerns, here’s a list of what you need to do before leaving your house.
- Check your motor by connecting your garden hose to your boat motor. Make sure it is running and working properly before you drive away. It is best to find out that your boat motor is not running while you are at home than when you’ve reached the launching area.
- Put everything you need on your car such as fishing rods, lifejackets, coolers, drinks, ice, lures, etc. Make sure that all you need is complete. Make a checklist and tick off all that you’ve already loaded up to be sure you didn’t forget anything.
- Install your boat plug at home. Now, many boaters prefer to do this when they reach the ramp, that’s fine, too. However, since this is your first time, it’s best to do this at home to avoid forgetting it at the ramp in case you are in a hurry. The reason why some prefer installing the drain plug at the ramp is to ensure that all the water is drained from the bilge.
Attaching the Boat Trailer to the Vehicle
Make sure you have the right trailer for your vehicle and boat. Don’t just use an old boat trailer that you have around. Once you are have found the correct trailer, it is now time to attach it to your vehicle.
Make sure your trailer is properly balanced, then position your car ensuring the hitch ball is below the trailer’s coupler then lower your trailer. Fasten the trailer securely and using a cotter lock or pin, lock the trailer latch. Next is to fasten the boat to your tailer using tie-downs. Attach the winch safety chain or winch cable to the bow eye. Double-check that the trailer’s safety chains are attached to the hitch securely. Make sure the chains are with just the right amount of length, just enough to allow you to accommodate tight turns and to ensure the trailer will not touch the road in case it is dislodged from the hitch. Attach the trailer’s lighting harness and inspect your lights if they are working.
Now that you are sure that the motor is running, you’ve loaded up everything you need for your trip, including all your equipment, your trailer ready, and you have installed your drain plug, you are all set to go!
Preparation Before Getting into the Boat Ramp
Now that you have reached the parking space at the boat launch, find a nice and safe spot to park and do the final preparations. If you have never launched a boat from a ramp, we recommend you do it on weekdays, or when it is not boating season when there are fewer people, or on days when you know the ramp won’t be too crowded. This will lessen the pressure and nervousness you are feeling on your first boat launch.
Launch ramps can either be public or private, it can be in a marina, gated community, or country park. Whether it is public or private, expect to pay a minimal launching fee and settle it as soon as you get there. Since this is your first time, you are probably not aware of how the ramp looks like. Once you have parked, get down to the dock and ramp and inspect. This will give you an idea of how deep the water is, if the ramp is too steep, and the dock condition.
Inspecting the ramp first will allow you to plan ahead and scout the best place to park your car and trailer once you have launched the boat. When launching in a public area, it is important to move as fast as you can so that you won’t get in the way of others.
Now that you have inspected the area, it is time to prepare your boat for loading all your gear in it. You do not want to load your things on your boat when you are already on the ramp dock. Aside from the fact that it is tiring to go back and forth with all your things, you don’t want other boaters to be annoyed at you because they also want to use the boat ramp.
So, what are the things you need to prepare and check before you head onto the boat ramp?
- Ensure all necessary safety gear is there such as lifejackets, flares, registration, and dock lines
- Check again that your boat plug is installed correctly
- Turn on your battery switches and detach the trailer lights from your vehicle
- Set up your VHF antenna and tie your bumpers or fenders
- Disengage any safety straps but keep your winch strap attached but a bit loose. Ensure that your gear are well kept so that you can get on and off your boat with ease and without obstructions.
- Get your dock line that has loops at both ends. Attach one of the loops on the trailer stand where you can find the winch and the other loop to the bow cleat. Ensure that both loops are attached securely.
- The line should be a bit slack because that is what’s going to hold your boat as you back it and slide it in the water.
Once everything is in order, you can now go to the boat launch ramp.
Okay, now that you have prepared everything you need before your boat launch, you are ready for your most anticipated boat launch. This part is pretty quick as you have prepared almost everything beforehand.
Now that you are on the ramp, back your trailer down the ramp and place the boat in the water. Since this is your first time, stop and unhook the winch strap before you get to the water, as mentioned earlier this is for safety reasons. However, as you get comfortable with launching your boat alone, and as you familiarize yourself with the ramp and your boat, you can unhitch the winch strap in the earlier phase.
Before getting back to your car, check your dock line, ensure that it is secured to the trailer and bow cleat, and the line has slack. Once you are back in the car, carefully back the boat to the water, and once the boat reaches the water, firmly and quickly press the brakes, this will make your boat float in the water. Don’t worry about it going too far – you have your bowline to catch it to bring your boat back.
Backing Down the Ramp Tips
Backing down the ramp can be challenging for first-timers. When doing this, you would want to align the boat and trailer straight on the ramp. This will make it easier for you as you launch the boat. When backing down, do it slowly so you have enough time to align back the trailer straight in case it goes crooked.
To make it easier, place one of your hands on the steering wheel’s bottom part and using your mirrors watch the trailer. depending on which direction you want your trailer to go, move your hand to steer in that direction. Move left if you want to go left and vise versa. Once the tires of your trailer become wet with water, check if the boat starts to float, if not keep backing down slowly until the boat begins to float.
Now that you have your boat in the water, park your vehicle and get out of the car and tie the boat to the dock. There is a chance you have to walk on your boat trailer and jump to the bow if you have difficulty accessing the floating dock.
Once you have secured your boat at the ramp dock, you can now set your parking brake and park your trailer and tow vehicle. Once parked securely, go back to the boat and enjoy the day boating.
Boat Launch Etiquette
Every boater should know the rules not only when on the water but also when you are about to launch a boat. To avoid being the cause of delay, here are some educated boat launch practices you should always remember.
- Never be in the way of other boaters who are launching. Complete all boat launch prep at home and in the staging area.
- Move efficiently. If you have other people with you, ask them to help you. If none, move quickly, try to make the launch process as efficient as you can.
- Once your boat is out of the trailer, pull the ramp back up and park.
- During retrieval of your boat, stay away from the launch area or use a courtesy dock.
- Put the boat in your trailer and secure the safety chain and winch line at the bow. After that, go back to the staging area to secure your boat trailer and finish unpacking.
Tips for Launching a Boat Solo
- Practice driving, particularly reversing or backing down with your trailer attached to your vehicle.
- Make sure you have all the right equipment and they are loaded on your vehicle. Make a checklist so you won’t forget anything.
- Get your dock lines ready and fenders tied before you bring the boat to the dock.
- Remove your trailer lights ahead of time, especially if your trailer lights are not waterproof.
- If you have a fuel primer, which is usually found on outboard motors that have fuel lines attached to a fuel tank, pump it first.
- Don’t forget to warm up the motor.
- Practice launching until you have created a good launch routine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you launch a boat by yourself?
Yes, you can as long as you are well-prepared and you know how to do it right, you don’t need another person to help you.
What is the best way to launch a boat by yourself?
The best way to launch your boat by yourself is to do all the preparation at home and before going to the staging area, so as not to interrupt other boaters.
How hard is it to launch a boat by yourself?
It is not as hard as you may think, as long as you have the right equipment and had done your preparation ahead of time and you have enough boating knowledge, you will be just fine. But practicing will make it easier over time.
How do you launch a boat solo?
As you back your boat to the water, wait till your boat barely starts to slip through the water. As you let go of the winch line, direct the boat out of the trailer using the bow and stern lines. Secure your boat to the dock and remove your towing vehicle away from the ramp.
Are you ready to launch your boat safely now? The best way to master launching a boat is to have practice launches, just make sure you do it when there are only a few people on the whole ramp. Don’t forget the few unspoken rules, so as not to get in the way of others who also want to launch their boats.