Do you want to go boating but have a hard time taking that boat to the dock? It’s usually not a problem if you have friends with you. These friends can stand back in the parking lot, direct your driving, and help avoid unneccessary prop damage. Unfortunately, that’s not always a possibility – which is why you should learn how to trailer a boat safely without getting a giant headache. In this article, we’re going to talk about how you can trailer a boat along using a particular method that can potentially save you time and effort.
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What is a Trailer?
So you just got your first bass boat and now want to bring it to the water. You’ll need a trailer. A trailer is a wheeled attachment to a vehicle. It’s something you use to carry, launch, or even load a boat off the water. In many cases, the trailer is also used for storage. Since the trailer doesn’t have an engine of its own, maneuvering it really depends on how you drive the vehicle its attached to.
It requires a little practice to drive the car and get the trailer to do exactly what you want – especially if you’re going on a boat solo. If you’re not careful, accidents happen and you might find yourself losing trailer completely even before you get to the dock. In this article though, we’re going to talk about how to properly use your trailer to carry, load, and launch a boat. Trailers come in a variety of shapes and sizes so make sure to buy one that fits your boat size and works well with your tow vehicle.
Driving with a Trailer
Driving with a trailer may seem simple as you just pull the trailer and boat behind you. If you swerve left, the trailer should swerve left and if you go right, so does the trailer. It’s that simple, isn’t it?
Well, not really. Driving with a trailer boat attached to the back of your car necessitates added caution. You’ll have to maintain a controlled speed, perhaps even slowly drive down the road to make sure the trailer doesn’t go its own way. If you’ve been driving for a long time, chances are you already have this perception of the size of your car and adjust your driving accordingly.
For example, you already know just how much clearance your car needs when reverse parking. With a trailer, you’ll need to make some adjustments because now, your car is basically longer than usual.
Now, launch a boat begins with driving your boat from your home to the boat ramp of your favorite fishing spot. The first thing you want to make sure is that the boat is secured in its trailer. The front should be hard press on the bow stop, the trailer tounge should be present to help maintain the balance, and additional straps should be in place to avoid boat backwards movement.
Some people even use a motor stabilizer to prevent swaying of the trailer. Make sure to adjust your side mirrors to include the back corner of the boat. Driving back home, make sure to pop off the drain plug and clean your boat to prevent rusting until your next trip.
How to Trailer a Boat Alone
Before you start looking for fishing tips, you should first learn how to handle your new boat. Just to clear things up, being able to trailer a boat alone can mean two things. Either you’re trying to launch the boat on the water or you want to load it on the trailer.
In either case, you should be glad to know that both things can be done through three simple steps and without the help of others! In this article, we’re going to talk about both instances and we’re going to break down the steps so you’ll be able to follow them better.
Boat Launching Steps
Before you can actually launch your boat, you should get into position. This means backing your truck and trailer into the water so that the boat gets into that perfect position to slide off. Make sure your parking brake is engaged because the last thing you want is for the truck to follow the boat into the ramp. If there are several ramps, choose the one at the outermost side, just to make sure that you won’t be in the way of other boaters.
Step 1: Tie Your Ropes
Ready to launch a boat? Start with your ropes which would be your most important tool during this first step. If you don’t have a rope yet, make sure to buy one. Note that you should purchase a nautical rope or a winch strap – something specifically made for coastal use. Since you’re doing this alone, buying two ropes would be safer. The length of the rope depends on the size of your truck, trailer, and boat. Ideally, it should be long enough that you can launch your boat off the trailer without untying the ropes.
Tie the two long ropes together, making sure you’ve made a secure knot. Tie one end of the long rope to the front of the boat and the other end should be tied to the cleat inside the truck. If you have safety straps around the boat, now is the time to untie it.
Step 2: Put Everything you Need in the Boat
Once you have the boat secured by the ropes, start to get all your fishing or boat gear ready. This will save you the trouble of carrying all your gear to an already launched and floating boat. Short minutes will be spent – but you’ll definitely find it helpful in the long run. Once everything is inside, take a good look at your boat and trailer and figure out how much farther do you need to roll backwards in order to get the boat across the water’s edge.
Go inside your truck and slowly back against the water at a steady and controlled speed. Doing this with the window rolled down will help you better check the boat alone as you lower is down shallow water. Wait until the boat completely floats on the water before stopping the truck at the dock space. Most boat owners do a hard brake so that the boat slides completely off the trailer without having to push it off. Finally, pull up the parking brake for added safety.
Step 3: Gravity Launches a Boat Quicker
Grab your boat rope off the truck cleat and let the boat slide off the trailer. Give it a small shove if you have to. You can now attach the winch strap to the dock cleat, making sure it is locked in there tight. Once done, don’t forget to park your car in the designated parking spot so other anglers can use the dock.
Load a Boat Alone
Are you ready to go home? After a day of sun and sea, the loading process is typically described as harder than the launch. Remember than when launching the boat, you’re actually working with gravity. When you load a boat though, you’re working against it. Don’t worry though – the buoyancy of the water will help so that you can still do all of this alone.
Step 1: Securing the Boat to the Dock
Start by tying the boat to the dock, making sure you have it in there tight to prevent the boat from floating away. You want to load a boat in the same position as you launched it with the bow stop cradling the front of the boat. Try to tie the boat at the end of the dock so others can use the ramp space to load a boat or launch their own. This is especially important if you’re a beginner since docks are a busy facility and the last thing you want to do is waste someone else’s time.
Step 2: Reverse your Truck
Reverse your truck with the trailer onto the ramp. This requires a bit of maneuvering because your trailer will not move in the same direction as your truck. For example, if you turn counter clockwise, the trailer will go right and vice versa. Simply put – if you want the trailer to go left, you need to turn the steering wheel to the right. It requires a bit of practice and admittedly, it’s going to be one of the most frustrating parts of the whole process. Once you get the trailer straight down the boat ramp, things should get a bit easier.
You want the trailer to be slightly dipped in the water, close to where the boat begins. Make sure the distance is enough that you can pull the boat all the way up to the trailer winch.
Step 3: Load a Boat Up the Trailer
Once everything is ready, get back on the boat and untie the rope from the inside. Put the rope inside the boat because you’ll be using this again in the future. Keep one hand on the dock to keep the boat in place while you do this. Note that you’re supposed to be inside the boat all this time because you’ll be driving the boat towards the water’s edge and up the waiting trailer. Give your boat a slight shove to get it away from the dock and slowly drive it towards the trailer.
Make sure you get as far as the front winch of the trailer. Attach this to your boat, making sure it is held in place before getting off the boat. From there, you can get back on your truck and slowly drive forward so that the truck loads the boat for you. Congratulations, you’ve done it! You’re not done yet though. For added safety, you want to double check, make sure the winch strap hooked the boat, back transom straps, safety chain, and trailer tongue. All of these avoids unneccessary prop damage when trailing your boat to and from the dock. Don’t worry too much after water – the drain plug is there to remove the water once you’re on land.
Frequently Asked Questions When You Launch a Boat
Do I have to register my boat trailer?
They may seem like simple extensions to your car but a boat trailer is actually treated as an independent vehicle. What does this mean? Well, it means that the trailer itself has to be registered the same way you would register passenger cars.
You can check with any registry for motor vehicles in your area if the trailer needs to be registered. Note that smaller trailers may not need to be registered so make sure to measure your trailer size first before asking!
Do I need to install trailer lights?
Most States require you to install trailer lights on the trailer for the safety of everyone else driving around you. You don’t want to waste someone else’s time on the road. Ideally, your trailer should have turn signals, tail lights, side marker lights, and even a license plate. Do you still need it even when you have a small trailer? Well, yes – but make sure to check with your State laws first.
Can I use any tow vehicle?
Unfortunately – no. You will have to check your car’s towing capacity and compare it with the trailer and boat you’re using. The best tow vehicle is usually a truck because you can easily find a trailer winch to fit, reducing the need to buy extra items when you launch a boat.
Repeat these steps several times and finally, the entire process will seem like just a habit. Remember that practice makes perfect and do it enough times. You may no longer need a helping hand when you launch a boat again. Note though – water adventures is always more exciting if you have people to share it with. You might want to take your boat out at least once a week until you’re comfortable with the process. Pretty soon, you’ll be loading your fishing rods, giving fishing tips, and participating with your bass boat in your first fishing tournament!