You’ve purchased your vessel, and boat trailer made it to the water, and are ready for your maiden voyage! Only one obstacle stands in your path – the boat ramp. The boat ramp can be an intimidating experience for new boat owners. Not only can it be challenging to launch and load your boat, but there is also boat launch etiquette to learn! You don’t want to be the apparent newbie on the water getting dirty looks from other boaters because you didn’t know the unspoken rules of launching.
Here we will guide you through the daunting launch process so you can tackle the boat launch like a seasoned captain!
The Right Boat Trailer
Not all boat trailers are the same, and not all boat trailers are ideal for your boat or boating needs. Ensure you have purchased the right trailer for your vessel before starting out on your maiden voyage. Check out our article discussing what you need to know about boat trailers before buying!
When to Load Your Equipment
Boat etiquette demands that you load all the gear you’re taking out onto the water with you before you even consider driving down to the boat launch. The boat launch is for launching, not for packing your boat. The goal is to back up, get the boat in, and go!
The Drain Plug
Put in the drain plug. I emphasize, put in that drain plug. You can’t miss this important step, or you won’t be making it very far.
Buoys and Fenders
Make sure you have your buoys and fenders tied on and the dock lines ready to bring the boat to the dock.
Remove the tie downs that keep the boat attached to the trailer. However, you don’t want to remove the winch line from the bow eye just yet.
If your trailer lights are not sealed and waterproof, you will need to unplug them before launching. Failure to do so will damage the trailer wiring over time due to frequent water exposure. Keeping your lights unplugged when unloading avoids short circuits and other electrical problems.
Position your vehicle to back up
You want to move your vehicle into a position that you can back straight up into the water. Your goal is to put your vehicle and trailer in a place where backing up is easy. Drive-up next to the boat landing, parallel with the water. Turn away from the boat launch, so your vehicle and trailer are now perpendicular to the shoreline.
It is very helpful to practice backing up prior to your boat ramp debut! Find an empty parking lot or other safe, open space to get a feel for the boat trailer and how it moves in relation to your vehicle.
Get Into the Water
Get into position and then slowly back the boat into the water. Back your vehicle up to the point where the tongue and boat winch are still out of the water. Next, you will release the trailer winch hook and strap. Then, tie your tow rope to your boat. If you have a friend helping you have them hold onto the tow rope. If not, tie the rope onto an anchor or dock cleat. Securing the boat prevents it from floating away. Do not tie it too tight, as you need plenty of slack to continue backing up.
Time to Submerge!
Once you have attached the tow rope, slowly continue backing the boat into the water until the motor submerges. Before releasing, test that your engine is ready to go by starting it and allowing it to warm up for a minute. You don’t want to fully launch your boat and then slowly watch it float away because you can’t start the engine.
Back your trailer to the point where your boat is starting to float. Do not back up too far as you don’t want to damage your vehicle. Once your boat is safely floating-place your vehicle in park and put on the emergency brake!
Guide the Boat Off the Trailer
Pull the boat out and away from your trailer using the tow rope. Then, tie the rope to a secure anchoring point like a dock cleat.
Find a Place to Park
Take off your emergency brake and find a place to park!
Huzzah! You’ve done it!
A Few Courtesy Tips for the Boat Ramp
Following a few courtesy tips on the boat ramp will prevent you from looking like a newbie and help you avoid any dirty looks from other boaters. Practicing these simple tips prevents traffic jams and helps everyone get out on the water!
· Do not prepare your boat for launch or loading at the ramp.
· Ideally, have two experienced people help launch and retrieve the boat – someone to drive the towing vehicle and someone to move the boat.
· Never leave your boat unattended, blocking the launch ramp.
· Move your boat away from the launch lane right after you unload. You can always circle back to grab any passengers parking the vehicle.
· Do not let your boat sit at the launch lane when getting ready to go home. Wait until your vehicle and trailer are at the ramp and ready to go. Drop someone to retrieve the trailer and then wait offshore, keeping the ramp clear for others.
Hopefully, this step-by-step guide and courtesy tips have given you more confidence to face the boat ramp and get out on the water! But, of course, a key element for a successful launch is a solid boat trailer set-up! Here at Rocket Marine, we pride ourselves on offering top-quality parts and impeccable maintenance services to ensure your boat trailer is ready. So reach out to us to learn what we can do to help get your boat to the open water!